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Sail Date: January 2004
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ... Read More
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ship should be a social occasion, and having the ability to converse with tablemates is critical. Fortunately I was able to find a set of good tablemates at a round table, although that took a couple of days. "Cunard-ival" has turned its back on the singleton. Ironically, when I wished to be seated alone for a meal other than dinner, I was actually told on board twice (not once, but twice) that the only way I could get a table for one at breakfast or lunch was to dine at the buffet. I did not pay my fare to schlep my tray like some high school student through a second-rate cafeteria. My cabin (Category B3, Premium Balcony) was interesting. I am a tall person, standing about 6'2". The deckchairs were wedged in between the railing and the cabin bulkhead so that they were useless to someone my height. In order to sit in the deckchairs, I had to put my feet up on the glass panels or move the chair sideways on the balcony, thus rendering the use of the balcony door useless without moving the chair again. Even with the obstructed views of the ocean, I had expected the ability to enjoy breakfast on my balcony with the sea air, but was unable to do so. I have alluded to dining earlier in this letter, but let me directly address the food. It was practically impossible to order off menu. The menus in the Britannia Restaurant were not at all coherent between courses. One passenger at my table likened the incongruent menus to rolling a cup of dice in the game of yhatzee. The portions were small and I always left dinner hungry - because of course there was no time to eat a second meal since the late seating was waiting. Quite frankly, if this were a land-based restaurant, I would never return; however, I was trapped onboard a ship with few other dining options. Lotus was too heavy on the shellfish and seafood. To pay a service charge for the Carvery was ridiculous at the fare (read single supplement and cabin category) I paid. I did, however, have one good meal in two weeks aboard the ship - Todd English. One of the things missing on the QM2 is a nice middle-of-the-road dining option like the Caronia Restaurant aboard the QE2. Cunard is trying to mass-market luxury with this ship, and it does not work. Unless you are willing to move into the Princess Grill categories, I would not recommend any cabin category above a B6. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
Starting my 30th year as a cruise ship traveler I booked on the new QM2 (delivered Jan 2004) for the Three Continents cruise from March 26 to April 12th............ The QM2 is a large ship and it is difficult to get around due to its ... Read More
Starting my 30th year as a cruise ship traveler I booked on the new QM2 (delivered Jan 2004) for the Three Continents cruise from March 26 to April 12th............ The QM2 is a large ship and it is difficult to get around due to its size 155000 tons and the poor arrangement of the public areas and the vast endless corridors of cabin doors. At first sight the interior and public areas of the QM2 are impressive but after a few days onboard these areas seem less impressive and in some cases without merit. Outside Veranda cabins on Decks 4,5 and 6 are approx 250 square feet and the veranda is cluttered with two huge lounges and a table which make movement on the veranda next to impossible. The interior of the cabin is adequate and somewhat cramped due to too much furniture, closets and the king size bed. The bathroom is rather small and does not compare favorably with other newer cruise ships facilities. One of the most important features of the newer cruise ships is the variety of food choices and the QM2 is no exception. Unfortunately the food preparation, presentation and service misses its advertised goals and falls far short in passenger expectations. The main dining room for the majority of passengers, The Britannia, is overwhelming in size and noise. The decor is stunning but that is where this dining venue starts and stops. The King's Court (cafeteria style) doubles for special restaurants during the evening and serves the traditional breakfast and lunch buffet. One restaurant that hardly rates comment is the Todd English Grill ($30 cost). It is a disaster from food service/presentation/menu selection and horrible wine stewards. Entertainment during my voyage on QM2 was without a doubt the worst I have ever seen on any ship. The Royal Court theatre is the main venue for the evening entertainment and is a stunning room and unfortunately the production shows and featured performers did not measure up to the quality of the Royal Court theatre facilities. Shore excursions were fine but not notable, neither was the Tour Office staff who appeared to be stressed out and overworked from the get go. Would I cruise again on the QM2, most likely NOT primarily because the ship and the media attention and kudos from Cunard and the shipbuilder never came close to my expectations. I had truly hoped that the QM2 would bring in a return to the "grand" days of cruise liners and it did not... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Evaluation of Queen Mary II, May 10th, NYC - St. Maarten, Martinique, St. Thomas, NYC Bill Tuting, Cunard World Club Platinum Member Preface: Once a year I cruise with my Mom (83 years young) and her friends that she and Dad had met over ... Read More
Evaluation of Queen Mary II, May 10th, NYC - St. Maarten, Martinique, St. Thomas, NYC Bill Tuting, Cunard World Club Platinum Member Preface: Once a year I cruise with my Mom (83 years young) and her friends that she and Dad had met over their 60 cruises before Dad passed away. This was my 5th cruise on Cunard, Mom's 15th and one of our group was recognized at the World Club meeting with over 700 nights on Cunard. I share this so the reader would be aware of our experience and comparisons. We booked our cruise in July of 2002 in great anticipation of this new ship and hopefully improved Cunard service. We watched the TV at the launch in January and all the following specials that promoted this ship. We were interested in meeting the head maitre d', as we had been in contact with him in the past.  Much to our surprise, we found out that he had left the ship in March and no one was sure when and if he would be back. We were disappointed that we did not have this contact but also disappointed that the service in the dining room had not improved, in fact, it had gotten worse. The embarkation was very smooth. My aunt on a different deck was given a different boarding time on her ticket and this spread out the normal rush. It also helped that Mom was in a companion chair and received some special considerations in help on boarding. Unlike other reports we had read, we were met on the entrance deck by an escort that showed us to our room, 4th deck slightly aft of amidships. This turned out to be an excellent location as we were a short walk to the "C" elevator/stairway which would take you to the 2nd or 3rd deck where the Britannia Restaurant/ Casino is or the 7th floor where the Kings Court, Lido/promenade deck. If you stayed on 4 deck you could avoid the crowds by walking forward to "B" elevator to the shows or planetarium. Our balcony room on 4 deck was somewhat different from my aunt's balcony room on 11 deck. 4 deck's balcony sits recessed from the hull and therefore you may have a foot more in width however, it is behind a hole in the hull and in order to see the water, you have to stand up. The balconies on the upper deck have floor to ceiling windows so you can see the entire ocean from anywhere in your room. Many of us felt that our rooms were misrepresented when we first signed up for the cruise as all our other balcony ships had full views. The size and layouts of both rooms were exactly the same and done very intelligently. Unlike the Norwegian Dawn, there were no partitions between the toilet, sink and shower therefore giving you more room (which is nice for large people or if you want to change without bumping into walls). The two closets and two sets of dressers in the hallways gave plenty of storage (two sets of formal attire and my scuba equipment). The TV and dressing table were smartly placed in the corner near the balcony so that when using the mirror or writing postcards you were not in the way of the other person walking through the room. The TV and in room internet service are still sub par as compared to other ships. The technology is certainly out there to bring in more channels via satellite and with the majority of passengers from the States, most other ships would tune in to local stations while in port or CNN - US as one of the offerings while at sea. QMII did neither. Channel selection, movies and programs were extremely poor. Hotels learned along time ago to put a sleep timer on their TVs. The remotes were complicated, confusing and lacked some basic features. Most frustrating was the 'internet service in every room'. Yes, this is true but the only service available in your room through the telephone at 56K. If you want high speed or wireless you have to go to a different part of the ship. If you are on vacation and just want to check in or not have a ton of work when you get home, it is most inconvenient to go to another part of the ship for high speed service when every Marriott Courtyard has it in every room for free (I spent over $200). Also, when I loaded the QMII dialup software on my computer, it corrupted my laptop for when I got off the ship. It took several calls to a help line to bring it back. The worse part of the trip was the service in any of the dining areas. For the most part the food was very good and of course everything was excellent in the 'Todd English' restaurant. Our first dinner in the Britannia set the stage for the entire week; no matter what meal or table we sat at (different table for breakfast and lunch every day). Dinner as we left New York was at 6PM. We pulled away from the pier at 5:45PM and thus missed the Statue of Liberty and Verazzano Bridge. The wine steward came right away to our table. I requested a Tanguray 10 and tonic. I was told they don't have Tanguray 10 so I settled for a Tanguray and tonic. It arrived 15 minutes later without anything in it. I asked for a lime and was told 'limes are unavailable". I felt this was incredible for an English heritage ship. I later noted that with one of the deserts there was a lime garnish and as I walked out after dinner I saw two empty glasses at a different table that had limes in it. While I may have received limes with my drink the rest of the cruise, it was my assessment that the wine steward was just too lazy or busy to make a separate trip to get me a lime. It was also sad to note that the wine steward never removed the wineglasses on the table when no wine was ordered. The final straw with the wine steward was that she gave some smart lip to one of the other guests at our table when he was having lunch at the Kings Court. He requested an apology from her that night and she responded, 'I will not'. Our fellow guest asked that she be removed from our table service. This poor service and response was repeated throughout the Britannia Room as we sat at different tables for breakfast and lunch: empty water glasses, empty coffee cups, when you ran out of cream or 'sweet and low', your coffee got cold before they replenished the supply (not once, but almost every day!!!). If you wanted a bran muffin and the tray had been depleted, the waiter was not happy to make a special trip and you had to wait until your breakfast was almost over. Eggs requested over medium were served sunny side up and almost raw. When you repeated your order, you were told the eggs WERE 'over medium'. A professional response would be to offer to take them back. Hot entrees were served before the appetizers or fruit cup. The majority of the food arrived luke warm as the distance to the kitchen was enormous and it appeared there were too few waiters for too many tables. In summary, the service and attention to details was poor throughout the dining room. It was only when you had the appropriate attention from a very few (Jean Paul, Maitre d') did you feel you were getting what you paid for. The evening shows were very good. You do need to get early if you want a half way decent seat. Bar service is only available on the lower deck and there were better arrangements for handicapped seating on the 2nd floor (sometimes it was difficult to get the handicapped seating enforced). This also meant you had to run downstairs before the show if you wanted a drink. Other evening entertainment was rather reserved and formal The escorts did their best to dance with the single women and the non-professional dancer was quickly intimidated on the ball room floor. The ship is just not as lively at night. Days at sea were pleasant and there seemed to be enough deck chairs and room. The only time you really felt the crowd was during meal time, show time, tender time and of course a helicopter rescue of a member of the band off the coast of North Carolina. We were all very proud of our Coast Guard. Our first stop was at St. Maarten where the tenders did an excellent job bringing almost everybody ashore. Within one block there were stores similar to downtown St. Thomas and a new beach sidewalk made it easy to visit hotels and have lunch near the beach. I had an excellent shark dive with Dive Safaris. Our second stop at Martinique was a different story. The ship was able to dock at the commercial pier. We were right across from the Pacific Princess (the old Love Boat) so you could really compare the sizes. It was a mile walk into town on a blue sidewalk (we were better off visiting the few stores at the dock). We walked into town, hot and humid. The natives were not too friendly. The shops had high level of security. Even if we bought something, we were told there were no bathrooms for us in the stores. I was about to buy a $400 Watch and changed my mind due to this attitude. The public toilets in the square only took Eurasia. When I bought a souvenir in U.S. dollars I asked for change in Euros so I could use the toilet. I was told they could not do this. Within a short period of time we took a taxi back to the ship. Our last stop was at St. Thomas. Again, we had to tender in and the crew did an excellent job. Shopping is still excellent whether downtown or at the pier. Chris Sawyer Dives are also very good. The ship is just a great marvel. There are historical pictures and paintings throughout the ship. I wish there was a guide to them because unless you went up and down every stairway and elevator (I believe I did), you may have missed them. There were spare propeller blades attached to the front deck (The way to visit the bridge observation window was somewhat confusing and once you found the door, only many trips would allow you to find the door open at different and strange times. If you went to the Commodore's Cocktail Lounge, you are rewarded with an enormous model of the ship. It is the most forward and highest lounge overlooking the bow. The only problem is they pull the shades when the sun goes down as the reflection bothers the bridge....too bad. The only way to see the bow is on the TV in your room or from the top observation deck, which can be quite windy. Our group has a habit of cocktails before dinner at a high and forward lounge. The return to New York City was also a disappointment. We found out the day before that we would be docking around 6:30 AM. We later heard we would be under the Verazzano at about 5 AM. I awoke at 4:30 AM and put on the TV to see where we were on the GPS map. We were off the coast of Sandy Hook. I rushed upstairs with my camcorder to see absolutely nothing. The fog was so dense you could barely see the channel markers flashing when we were 25 feet away from them. Up on the very top deck was a crowd, staring into the fog. Suddenly we saw the dim lights of the bridge about one minute before we went under it. It was a spectacular shot to film this and the crowd let out a cheer as the stack cleared the bridge by about 14 feet. The next thing we saw was the Colgate clock that meant we went by the Statue of Liberty without seeing it. Docking and disembarking was the usual, long and difficult but no different than any other cruise. We found our luggage quickly as we waited our turn to get off. Finding a longshoreman is easy if you have one person watch your luggage as the other goes up front with some $ in their hand. In summary, I would not go on the QMII again until the prices and novelty go down and the quality of dining service goes up. Bill Tuting Btuting@att.net Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
We had the misfortune of being on the 6/11-6/19 Caribbean cruise on QM2. From the beginning Cunard showed its ineptitude. Varying pieces of pre-boarding info gave conflicting requirements for passport. It was needed, it wasn't ... Read More
We had the misfortune of being on the 6/11-6/19 Caribbean cruise on QM2. From the beginning Cunard showed its ineptitude. Varying pieces of pre-boarding info gave conflicting requirements for passport. It was needed, it wasn't needed. Phone calls received the same yes/no responses. E-mail likewise yes/no. For this cruise, passports were not needed as it turned out, but conflicting answers from Cunard almost caused several members of our group to spend extra for rushed passports. Boarding in NYC at 3pm went smoothly, greeted at end of gangway by crew members who smiled and pointed towards elevators, not very helpful, but not bad. Luggage was at rooms when we arrived. Briefly explored ship then decided to get a snack before sailing at 5. Eat before you get on, there was nothing open for dining until the restaurants opened up at 6pm. If you had late seating, as we did you could not eat until 8:30. Room service was available, but wait time was 2-2.5 hours. Food overall was a major disappointment throughout the cruise. What there was was not very good, service of it for the most part was poor and hours it was available were limited. No food anywhere onboard at certain times except room service. "Midnight Buffet" opened at 11pm. This "buffet" consisted of the same thing every night..hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and a chinese stirfry along with a small selection of salads, lunch meats and stale desserts. Menu in the Britannia DR was always very limited, with nothing available geared towards children. It took 3 days for the wait staff to figure out how to get chocolate milk, that one of the children with us wanted. Service was mediocre at best. Half of a table of 7 would get water or bread, other half had to request. Menus at all the King's Court/Speciality Restaurants was the same every day of the cruise, as was the menu at Todd English. We did not dine at any of the Speciality Restaurants or Todd English. Menus did not look very exciting and reports from others said food/service was no better than Britannia. Entertainment onboard was just ok. Featured entertainers were good, production shows terrible. Illuminations was enjoyable, movies were definitely not new...Chicago, Under the Tuscan Sun, Seabiscuit, Freaky Friday, Out of Time, Beyond Borders, and Cold Creek Manor. The TV system in the room was terrible with erratic and hard to use controller The same 4 episodes of Home Improvement and Friends played all week. News was often not available or a taped repeat of the previous day. The itinerary displayed on screen for our cruise was from the previous week until the last day we were onboard. The Cruise Director, Ray Rouse had all the personality of British Police Detective, which he was before going to sea. We had a Hull Balcony which we enjoyed but does prevent sitting on the balcony and watching the ocean go by. Room was basic, service was erratic. We found dirty sheets under our beds when we boarded. Top sheets will only be put on beds if requested, otherwise it's just bottom sheet and duvet. Bathroom supplies were not replenished unless the empty bottle or cardboard tube were left on counter for steward to see. We made the mistake of discarding an empty shampoo bottle and TP tube in the trash. When not replaced, steward said policy is to see the empties. This seemed to vary from room to room depending on the steward. Ice was often not replenished in the ice bucket and the Stewards get off at 9 pm according to the purser. After that, requests got through the purser to room service or maintenance. The ship is huge, meaning tenders at every port we went to. Besides its size, much of the lay-out is awkward with a lot of you can't get there from here, unless you go up this elevator and down that one. Traffic flow and lay-out in King's Court is poor. Grand Lobby is anything but. Shops are Limited and all high end. Illuminations hard to find, poorly marked and sort of between decks. Entrance for Planetarium events is only through the Port doors, though there are doors on the Starboard side Announcements onboard, as annoying as they can be, are not normally piped into the rooms, though they can be. This meant going into the hallway to hear announcements. And we did have important announcements on our cruise, with a man overboard and a heart ailment helicopter medivac. Overall the QM2 is a beautiful ship and we had a decent time. It could have been much better if attention had been paid to details, the crew been a little more friendly and helpful, instead of just polite, and the food and service was up to the 5 star standard that Cunard says it stands for. Would I recommend Cunard or QM2 to friends....NO Would I ever sail Cunard or QM2 again....NO Save your money, book two cruises on another ship for the same price. All you're paying for with Cunard and QM2 are a name and past glories. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
The Queen is overrated. There has been so much hype that I was expecting much more. And the several days of bad weather didn't help. I was traveling with a singles group so many things were taken care of by our escort. We got to the ... Read More
The Queen is overrated. There has been so much hype that I was expecting much more. And the several days of bad weather didn't help. I was traveling with a singles group so many things were taken care of by our escort. We got to the ship early and didn't have any problem with embarkation. Disembarkation was hectic. Fortunately, we had our own bus. Although the food in the Britannia dining room was good, the service was terrible. Waiters were running around like "chickens with their heads cut off" and completely disorganized. One night they forgot to serve my salad. They didn't give me with utensils to eat my dessert another night. I asked for another roll but never got it. Another night they poured one glass of wine for me but never checked to see if I wanted more poured and I had to do it myself. Hopefully things will improve when Princess management is fully integrated with Cunard. I ate in the Italian restaurant in Kings Court one evening. The food was delicious and service excellent. Although I booked a balcony, I didn't realize it was in the hull of the ship. Thus, to look out you had to stand up. It wasn't worth the extra money. The cabin, however, was furnished nicely and comfortable and was similar to some of the newer Carnival ships. The cabin stewardess was wonderful and did everything she could to make me feel "at home". She deserved the extra tip I gave her. However, I found many of the staff to be snobbish, especially to those who did not book the Princess or Queen accommodations. The QM2 is beautiful but it is too big. You have to take different stairways/elevators to get to different areas (and frequently take the wrong one). Although there is another way to get to the disco, the easiest and direct way is to go through the Britannia restaurant and Queen's ballroom. I was disappointed that San Juan was dropped from the itinerary. St. Kitts was substituted and didn't offer much. Having been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten numerous times, I didn't take any of the shore excursions. Entertainment was fair. It certainly couldn't compare to the elaborate shows on Carnival ships. There was a lack of chairs by the pool on deck 6. I didn't use the spa facilities but did use the gym. The equipment was tops and comparable to the best gyms in New York City (where I live). On a scale of one to ten, I'd rate the Queen as seven. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
First, I will tell you that my wife and I are in our early thirties and that we have been married two years and 1/2 years and have been on six cruises in that time period. The lines we have traveled on are Princess (Star) 2 times to Alaska ... Read More
First, I will tell you that my wife and I are in our early thirties and that we have been married two years and 1/2 years and have been on six cruises in that time period. The lines we have traveled on are Princess (Star) 2 times to Alaska 7 days and Greek isles/Italy 12 days, Carnival Spirt to Hawaii 12 days, Royal Carib 7 days to Bermuda, and Norwegian Dawn 7 day to the Bahamas. Now at least you might have a little better idea of where we have been and how I am rating this cruise. In all seriousness this cruise was not at all what we expected. We actually booked this cruise in the hopes of finding an adventure on the biggest and grantest ship of them all. At least that is what we thought because of the way Cunard attempts to presents themselves and their ships in their advertisements . What we got was, we paid more money for the so called privilege of sailing on their ship and along with that came long lines,slow service, poor planning by ships personal and average food(No better then Princess or Royal Carb)What I don't get about all this is, I am told Carnival owns them all. It started from day one. My wife and I decided that we wanted to try the QM2, so we contacted our travel agent and got the ball rolling. Well, I wanted to see what shore excursions were available to go along with this 11 day cruise that we were purchasing. Guess what no information online was available for any of the excursions, my travel agent called Cunard and they stated that after I book the cruise they will send me information in regards to the excursions, 28 days before sailing. I then called Cunard and received the same information as was given to my travel agent i was also told that they could not present me with any excursion information at that time. So in reality they expect people to purchase their cruises without even marketing what you and your family are going to do when you get to where you are going. Fine....honey its the QM2 well have fun just being on the ship.......................We booked the trip. Shortly after we boarded the ship we explored the ship. It is a nice ship but really the only thing that really makes the ship standout from other ships is its height and planetarium. Its main lobby is smaller them most and you are not allowed in the Queens grill or the Princess grill unless you buy one of their expensive top of the line suites so, I'll call it a wash,,, we were over the size of the ship after we passed the Vz Bridge in New York Harbor. (ok back to the cruise) Our first night at Dinner My wife and I are seated at a table for six with no one else at the table. That was for the whole cruise the ship wasn't full( I wonder why). The Maitre D' sits a single man in his late 70s at our table he was a Male escort hired by the cruise line to keep elderly single females company during their cruise in events such as dancing and shows. I wonder why The M"D sat this man with us, I guess he though we needed company, and no the man wasn't originally scheduled to be seated at our table. The service in the dining area The Britannia was slower then most ships plan an 1hr and 15 to 1 hr and 1/2 a night for dinner. This was of no fault to the waiters, the ship must be under staffed in one of the areas that deal with dinners on the ship. Our waiter was a complete gentleman and worked really hard. The kings court is another area where you can eat most anytime. My wife and I went to eat about 7pm because we got back late from an excursion I grab a plate and a tray which were all over the dinning area . I am starving I fill up my plate and my tray, I see some waiter running around the restaurant yanking the trays out from under people as they are eating their food. He comes up to me and tells me its dinner and I am not suppose to have a tray and grabs my tray as I am eating. I say what the hell ate you doing he tells me that no one is suppose to have trays in the buffet area at dinner and that if his supervisor sees he will be in trouble. I got news for them everybody who was eating was happy with the trays it made life easier, we were in the buffet area and about fifty people had them. We then go to the Queens room for Bingo one waiter patrols the huge show room as I wait 25 minutes for a soda. We go to the casino I am their waiting to drink alcohol and lose my money to slots and table games. You would think they would be egar to get some drinks in me, after all drinking and gambling are usually a big no no. That's why Atlantic City and Vegas give you your drinks for free. From day one until the end of the cruise it was a constant battle to get a beer or a soda in the casino. Oh if you go to see a show in the Royal Court theater bring a drink no waiters in there and that's where they show all there main shows. We booked an excursion for 945 am we are told the US immigration will be boarding and that all passengers must see them before going on their excursions so from 745 am until 925am i stood on a line on the ship in the middle of my vacation to get an immigration paper stamped. did the ship ever hear of staggering the lines by cabin numbers so you don't stand on line for two hours and then on top of it all the Cruise director is apologizing because now all the excursions are being delayed for the second day in a row, i should be saying cut short because that's what happened to most excursions if the couldn't get you to them on time they were just cut short. Well now after waiting two hours on line there is a 30 minute wait on the tender lines. This topped the cake we booked a tour for 10/04/05 that got canceled on 10/01/05 the cancellation letter was printed on 10/01/05 we received the cancellation letter on 10/03/05 in our cabin which states if we would like to book another tour we would have to do so by 10/02/05 1900 hrs. I go to the tour office to complain and the lady has the nerve to tell me that we sent the letter out on 10/01/05 in the A.M you should have gotten it. (Please give me a break , what am I making this up). They did let us get on another tour but mind you it is first come first serve for the premium tours which we blocked out. Hope I helped you in some way feel free to email me with any questions. I would not sail this line again. I know carnival owns everything these days but for less money and the better/ quicker, service I have gotten on other ships I'll pay less to get more. Honestly the ship's coordinators planned poorly for passenger convenience and did not adjust to other factors such as weather (fog) 2 days in a row passengers had their tours cut short due to the fact that the ship could not get the customer to their excursions on time. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
QM2 Voyage of Magellan Critique March 8-April 15, 2006, LA-NYC around SA. The most important thing to be aware of is that the QM2 is an OCEAN LINER, not a CRUISE SHIP. The QM2 is a beautiful large ship. You barely notice a rough sea, and ... Read More
QM2 Voyage of Magellan Critique March 8-April 15, 2006, LA-NYC around SA. The most important thing to be aware of is that the QM2 is an OCEAN LINER, not a CRUISE SHIP. The QM2 is a beautiful large ship. You barely notice a rough sea, and therein is the main advantage. The disadvantages are many as will be noted below; the fact that it is such a large ship: length 1132 ft, width 148 ft. (much too large for the Panama Canal) GRT 148528 tonnes, total height above water line 204 ft (10 to spare under the Verrazano Bridge), maximum draft 33 10. Three times around deck 7 is 1.1 miles. It is powered by four pods in the rear of the ship, the two rearmost pods can turn 360 degrees, obviating the need for a rudder. Maximum speed, 29.5 knots. Unfortunately, two months before our cruise, she hit something leaving Ft. Lauderdale FL, damaging the port forward pod, causing a displacement of a little over 1 in it, but enough to put that motor out of service. (It will not be repaired until November 2006). One of the greatest disadvantages to an OCEAN LINER is that its depth is too large for a great many ports so that it is necessary to tender in to these ports. This is an inconvenience (2500 passengers are aboard and most would like at least to see what is ashore). This also is a severe disadvantage for the handicapped, since it is a requirement that they must walk onto the tender. This is not a frivolous requirement since many times the tender is rocking severely and unless one is fairly agile, there is a possibility of being injured. (In one of our ports of call, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, the swells were so severe that the Captain would not permit tendering in, so we missed that port.) The QM2 has two venues for group attendance. The Royal Court Theatre, accessible at decks 2 and 3 and seating (my estimate) about 1200, and Illuminations on deck 3 seating 150 for the 4 Planetarium shows and about 600 for lectures and movies. Illuminations has theatre type seats which recline for the Planetarium shows and because of the limited visibility only the central 150 seats can be used. Admission is by ticket (no charge) for each 25 minute session. Seating in the Royal Court is on alternate continuous sofas or swivel seats. Unfortunately the swivel seats are so close together it is difficult to squeeze between them. It is impossible to walk in front of them since they are located so near the sofa in front and there are small heavy pedestal tables located at each fourth seat. (Queer planning- possibly they are providing a place to store your drinks). Wheelchairs are confined to the rear of both areas since there are several steps to the closer seats. Our cruise from LA to NYC was actually divided into 3 partial cruises for those who might not be interested in the full trip, LA-Valparaiso-Rio de Janiero- NYC. This resulted in three Captains Cocktail Parties, and three times the menu offered escargot (appetizer), lobster tail or filet mignon (entrEe) and baked Alaska (dessert). However, shrimp cocktail was never offered. Also, for all the elegance, rolls and bread selections, while tasty, were not heated, and were generally offered only once at the beginning of the meal by the busboy. If you wished additional breads, you had to ask for them, although once in a great while the busboy would offer an additional sample. We found the food to be so-so, without much flavor. Considering that the head chef was Italian we found the Italian dishes to be poor. In general, the food was tolerable, lacking taste, although it was presented beautifully. Our cabin was an in-hull verandah; therefore we were not permitted to use the Queens Room (reserved for the suite members), so we cannot comment on that restaurant. We could have all three meals in the Britannia Restaurant or the Kings Court, as well as lunch in several of the pubs, although reservations are required for dinner in the Kings Court and there is a $20 charge for lunch and $30 for dinner in Todd English. (We did not try it.) Tea in the Queens Room is very nice, with a selection of goodies which you dont need at 3:30 PM. The Kings Court (think Lido on other ships) is a disaster. There are four areas to obtain food, however they vary in opening times. There are hand sanitizers located in several places in this area (but, except for the spa and in the tendering area, nowhere else in the ship). The problem with the Kings Court is many-fold. The passageways entering the food areas are only 5 wide. Given a line which does not maintain single file together with the help moving carts in and out of a doorway where the line is, and others trying to get past in either direction, there is generally a bottleneck. Since the area where one would slide a tray is so short, and interrupted with a large container of napkin-utensil units, the line does not stay close to the food area. The location for hamburgers and hot dogs is also the sandwich-to-order spot with a tray area only 8 long. The help, besides rolling their cards full of noisy dishes through the area, seems to try to make as much noise as possible collecting used dishes. Compared to other ships we have been on, the help is less than helpful. Handicapped persons must find someone to carry their tray, whereas on other ships we have found it difficult to carry your own tray, the help is right there, almost taking it out of your hand. Drinks, coffee, juices iced tea and water are available in several locations, but not always at the same time. We noticed, unfortunately, for the last leg of the trip, the housekeeping left something to be desired. Locations ran short of napkins, cups, glasses and stations ran out of coffee and drinks much more often than in the first two legs. Waffles and omelets (chefs selection) are pre-made and kept on warming trays. We like mango chutney with our stir fry. On several occasions we requested the chutney, but by the time the server returned with a sample, we were through with our meal. A few words about the in-hull veranda: The veranda was approximately 8x10 (there were two plastic deck chairs and a small table in this area). The outside wall is the hull of the ship with a 3-1/2x6 opening starting about 3 off the ground. Standing up at the rail you can see about 160 degrees (if you lean out a bit, 180 degrees) in the deck chair you can only see the sky. In our case it was almost moot since for most of the days, the floor was so wet you didnt feel like soaking your shoes for the view. We had the water vacuumed out several times. Our complaints resulted in an offer of another in-hull veranda. We turned it down since we found from others in the same type cabin that wet verandas were common. We also found that the more expensive glassed-in verandas had the same problem. Just outside the veranda door is a perforated metal cover over a drain channel. We spoke with an engineer who came to examine our situation. He admitted that the original design did not provide for proper drainage of this channel, so the water builds up and just stayed there until it overflowed. Where the water comes from, we never found out. It might be a result of the crew washing down the upper decks. He said they were going to have to work on this problem!! The cabin itself was smaller than we have been familiar with; 248 sq. ft. vs. 292 sq. ft. for the Holland America Amsterdam, but it was acceptable. There was also one less closet. What was not acceptable, and a cause for excessive profanity was the hanger arrangement in the small 18x22 closet. (The larger closet 18x40 was acceptable. The first problem in the small closet was that there were only 4 hangars, and the room steward could not find any more. The second problem was that the hangers were arranged front to back, not side to side, making it necessary to remove everything in front of the hanger having the item desired. The third problem was that the hangars were of a special design (which explains why more were not available) having a 3/8 button on the top which fits in a track; this resulted in a delicate balance such that if you tried to slide an item off a rear hanger without removing those in front, the tilt of the hanger(s) would make them pop out of the slot and all hangers so tilted would fall on the floor (omitted are several expletives). Another feature of the cabin was the duvet which took the place of an upper sheet and blanket. Actually the upper sheet has a pocket in which the blanket fits. A nice idea  maybe  fine if you remember to turn down the heat on going to bed, otherwise you wake up very warm and cannot toss off the blanket and use only the sheet, since they are together. I wonder, had we asked for an additional top sheet whether we could have had one. The passageways are just 4 wide and the two times, morning and evening when the cabins are being made up, each room steward has his own large container for fresh linens, a trash can, a dirty linen container, an ice bucket, cleaning supplies and a vacuum lined up in the passageway. We also had an electric cart in front of an adjacent cabin. Somehow this did not seem fitting for such a classy ship. In other ships, the room steward picked up the necessary linens from a nearby storage area, and never left any bulky items in the passageway. It was also interesting to note that the promenade deck, (the exercise walking deck), is also used for jogging 8AM to 8PM. This could be a bit dangerous since in the area where the Kings Court (also on this deck) juts out there is no more than 5 clearance between its wall and the deck chairs. At the rear of the ship deck chairs are in general disarray, being moved by the sunbathers, so that there is often less than a one foot passageway between chairs. To make things more interesting, walkers (and runners) go in both directions rather than the normal counter-clockwise. The spa seemed well equipped and well attended. There are 4 pools, including a splash pool and a minnows pool for children, the other 2 pools, one which can be enclosed, were only about 20x20, quite small for a ship of this size, however there was a sizable area with deck chairs for sunning. Canyon Ranch provided beauty treatments, massage and supervised exercise facilities for a fee. We did not use these facilities but noted that others who did were satisfied with the service. There was no charge for the use of the exercise machines. During the first two segments of the cruise,the lectures and evening shows were outstanding. Two of the most memorable groups were The Westsiders, a sextet performing show tunes (including an outstanding group of selections from Les Miserables) and Frazier and Garry who presented four skits, one of them giving background information, and the other singing appropriate numbers. Dont miss either of these groups. During the last trip segment, the QM2 Dance Group repeated the some of the numbers they had performed on the earlier segments, even though they were billed as all new, and the other entertainment was a cut below that for the first two segments. While there were movies shown in the Illuminations theatre, it was not possible to see both the movie and the stage show because of the manner in which they were scheduled (movies were shown on the room TV during the day, however-in German and French as well as English). One rather odd thing regarding general notices, including disembarking information. The only way to hear such messages was to turn the TV on to channel 39. You could hear noise through the cabin door, but to understand the message it was necessary to turn on the TV or open the cabin door. Bridge lessons were available for beginners as well as advanced, and duplicate as well as party bridge sessions were available while at sea. The casino seemed to do a fairly good business (if you could tolerate the smoke). Smoking seemed to be permitted in more locations than on other ships, a practice we did not appreciate. It would seem that foreigners are more tolerant of second hand smoke than Americans. As noted above, the QM2 had only 3 0f the 4 motors available. As a result, she could not maintain the speed necessary to adhere to the original schedule. As noted above, the visit to Puerto Caldera was scrubbed because of high seas, visits at several other ports were either shortened or skipped completely. We were supposed to stay overnight at Montevideo, but because we could not travel fast enough with only three motors we only stayed from 12 noon to 11 PM. This eliminated the possibility of taking a tour to Iguassu Falls or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Many passengers were annoyed at this change in schedule. The port Salvador de Bahia, Brazil was omitted. Although the fine print in the cruise contract states that the cruise line may change the itinerary, we felt that inasmuch as the management was acutely aware that after the accident in January, it would be necessary to make changes in the itinerary, we were only informed that the ship would not return to Ft. Lauderdale. FL, but instead, we could at no extra charge continue to NYC or else leave the ship at St. Thomas and be flown home from there. (We were lucky that we had not booked our own air as we had originally booked to Ft. Lauderdale. We felt, as many others did, that Cunard deceived us, knowing full well that changes were planned early on in the itinerary, and purposely waited until we were well into the cruise before notifying us what the changes would be. The notification came in the daily program with no advance notice. Since we had been around South America before, we took very few tours on this cruise. Our main reason for taking this cruise was to go to Machu Picchu. We felt that tours on other lines (Holland America , Celebrity) were better handled. Probably because they have had more experience. There was a change in the itinerary- instead of leaving the ship at Esmerelda, we left for Machu Picchu at Manta. We had to take a plane to Lima, then change to another plane to Cuzco. The second plane was delayed so our tour of Cuzco (a very interesting place) was curtailed from the expected 4-1/2-5 hours to less than two hours. To aggravate the situation we had a poor guide. In spite of everything, our next day in Machu Picchu was delightful, even in the rain. We enjoyed the trip, but wonder if we might have done better to fly from home and take a several day guided tour. The $2200 each we spent for the two day tour should go a long way in paying for the more thorough visit. Overall we enjoyed the cruise, found the lectures and entertainment enjoyable, thought the QM2 was indeed a beauty, but would not recommend the ship for anything other than a trip from the states to Europe. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
This was my sixth cruise on Cunard. I have been cruising Cunard since 1981. This was by far the most disappointing experience with the cruise line. I can not recommend this ship to anyone but for the disabled. The facilities for disabled ... Read More
This was my sixth cruise on Cunard. I have been cruising Cunard since 1981. This was by far the most disappointing experience with the cruise line. I can not recommend this ship to anyone but for the disabled. The facilities for disabled were fine, but 90% of the able bodied passengers were treated like steerage. Firstly, the ship is on a class system, and 90% of the passengers are treated like cattle. The first class passengers, who are the grill passengers, have separate eating facilities, separate floors for cabins, first dibs on tickets to public events, and are treated very well indeed. We were on a "balcony cabin floor" which was not a balcony at all. It had an outside room with a hole for a window, and we were unable to see the sea unless standing. The deck chairs were cheapest resin plastic. The floor was cement. The room inside was dingy and dirty-feeling. The throw pillows smelled. The bathroom was especially bad, without adequate light or plugs. There were two American plugs in the entire cabin, and only one could be used at a time. The cabins were very uncomfortable and poorly conceived. THE CREW: Nobody could answer questions or give directions, we saw our steward twice in four days, we were treated as if we were on a third-class train in a third-world country. The attitude of the staff was lacking in interest in the passengers. They made it clear that they were not properly trained in service, but for whatever little job they were paid to perform. We never saw an officer or the captain, and the PA system could have had voice recordings as far as we knew. In the main dining room, the waiters threw the food at us so they could close up for the night. The Maitre 'd made no effort to seat us with peers. We were two women in our late 50s, and we were seated with Chinese in their 70s, and when we changed our table we were seated with a deaf German man in his 80s who could barely speak English. The FOOD and SERVICE: Like everything else, we had to find the best by accident. Nobody told us that the King's Court cafeteria turned into restaurants in the evening. We found out by accident on the last night of the cruise. The food was okay in the main dining room for dinner, but great in the Lotus which is a cafeteria for lunch but a waiter-restaurant in the evening. Like everything else on this ship, it is kept a secret from passengers until one happens to find it. In the "buffets" (read: cafeteria) the breakfast was miserable, powdered scrambled eggs, old rubbery bacon, pastries from powdered mixes, you get the drift. The coffee was so weak that we wondered if the same grinds were put through water twice. HIGH TEA: What a travesty. There weren't enough seats for the cattle passengers, nobody to find you a seat, which made certain passengers have the attitude of "every man for himself." We were almost accosted for taking a table that was "saved." Altogether the most disappointing food experience I've ever had on a cruise. No elegance, no interest in passengers, nobody asking whether you want anything. Just plentiful second-tier food -- although I must admit they made a good chop one evening. ENTERTAINMENT: Who goes to a show BEFORE dinner? If you don't want to eat at 6 pm, expect to see the show before dinner -- if you can find a seat. We saw one show. It was cute. On previous Cunard cruises, we saw first-rate entertainment. Like everything else on the ship, costs were cut to the bare bone. THE PLANETARIUM: We couldn't get tickets. They were gone by 9:00 am every morning. THE "CAPTAIN'S BALL": It might have been nice, but there were not enough seats for us to see it. INTERNET: My friend brought her computer, expecting to get her ordinary email address in the room, as advertised. After a two-day run-around, she gave up, and used the ship's computers for $0.50 a minute. CASINO -- Big and gorgeous, if you like to gamble -- but inadequate ventilation for all the smokers that congregate there. PORT: We were on a Labor Day round trip from NY to Halifax, NS. A pleasant journey, we thought, to a pleasant port where I personally have lived. One problem: All Services on shore and shopping were CLOSED in celebration of Labor Day. Why pick a destination on a day when the PORT WAS CLOSED? Check the ports carefully before you take any journey with this ship. EMBARKATION, DISEMBARKATION: We waited over an hour to get on the ship. We were told to leave the ship one hour early (we had to wait an hour outside for our ride to pick us up.) Altogether unacceptable. CONCLUSION: If you you like to cruise for gambling and lots of second-class food, take the Queen Mary 2. If you like to have good service, take another ship -- a smaller ship. It is not possible to have a good time or good service with 2,500 passengers and a crew that can't answer questions. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
First, background info. I am an experienced cruiser, divorced lady (new grandma), age 59, and I am employed in the financial services industry. I traveled on this short cruise with an "old" college classmate from long ago. She ... Read More
First, background info. I am an experienced cruiser, divorced lady (new grandma), age 59, and I am employed in the financial services industry. I traveled on this short cruise with an "old" college classmate from long ago. She had never before cruised. Past cruises include Princess, Radisson, now Regent, Seabourn and Carnival (long time ago). Embarkation: We both flew in from southern cities, met at LaGuadia and traveled to the pier in a taxi. Very smooth embarkation experience; we arrived before noon. Once on the ship, we visited our stateroom, which was ready for us as the ship had been in port with no passengers the night before. We were in a sheltered in hull balcony cabin on deck 4, also known to some as steerage. The balcony was a decent size with 2 chairs and a table. Once seated, in this balcony, you are unable to see out the opening. It was nice to have that extra space, as the cabin was very small overall, but adequate for our needs. It was decorated in a plain fashion. Our stewardess, Nancy, who was on her first contract, was quite nice. We gave her a long list of requests; top sheets needed on the beds, lots of towels and toiletries,etc, and she responded in kind. Luggage arrived quickly. We went to the Asian themed buffet in Kings Court, which was fair. Next, we went to the purser's office to politely request a complimentary upgrade to a nicer cabin and were rudely denied. We then walked around and admired the beautiful Queen Mary 2. She is stunning. I sat on Deck 7 in a teak chair, read a book and looked across to Manhattan. It was a beautiful day. At sailaway time, we purchased 2 glasses of Champagne on Deck 8 and watched the city fade away. The weather was perfect and the adventure began. We had requested late seating for dinner, but were assigned early seating, so we went to the Britannia restaurant (beautiful) and asked to be changed. Permission granted! Throughout the ship, there are musicians providing music in different venues (bars, decks, etc.) Very nice touch. Commodore Club is as terrific as others have described. I didn't get enough time there because the weather was too nice to be inside. The library is beautiful. Spent no time in the casino. Bars were comfy; service adequate. Art auction pieces were ordinary. We spent time during the days onboard relaxing in loungers on deck. Service from staff was poor. Staff members huddled around talking instead of tidying up. Ship is immaculately clean. Entertainment at night was great, especially Amy Abler, pianist, who performed with the QM2 orchestra. Shopping was as on other ships, some high end, lots of touristy stuff, too. We had one stop on this cruise at Princess Cays. Another beautiful day and we found 2 loungers and spent the day in the sun admiring the clear water and looking at the ship in the distance. The barbeque lunch provided by the crew was good. Limited shopping. Service good. I have saved the negative comments for last. Food and service in the Brittania Restaurant and other venues was below par, to put it mildly. First 2 nights took 2 hours to be served and eat mediocre food. Service at breakfast and lunch was similar. Third night, we made a reservation at the Carvery, (couldn't get in anywhere else; waiting list at Todd English). We notified the Brittania that we would not be there. Arrived at Carvery at 7pm and were greeting rudely. We and the table of 5 beside us ordered prime rib. None of us could cut nor chew the meat. Throughout the cruise, we met some lovely folks, most from NY and NJ. Without exception, the consensus was that the food and service was not what experienced cruisers expected from the QM2. Night 3 after hearing from new friends, one more story of dissatisfaction, I went to the purser's desk to speak with Norman, who was very polite and accommodating. At that point, I was merely attempting to understand how on earth a ship like this could do such a lousy job at mealtime. Was it because they considered us in Brittania to be not sophisticated enough to know the difference? Did they have a brand new crew in the galley? Not enough people in the galley? Why were some of the waiters so rude? Why was the food so ordinary? Of course the staff could not explain away the problem. We received a call from the restaurant acknowledging that the galley was slow and with apologies, requesting that we try again the final night of the cruise. We did, and the service was better and the food quality had improved to average. The wait staff had not been informed that we would not be there the night before. Certainly, this was not the service or food quality that we or our "new" friends onboard had expected of QM2. In spite of the above, we had a relaxing, nice time. However, I live in a beach town and could have spent that $1100 at home, on the beach, eating in nice restaurants and maybe asking my daughter in law to make the bed. If I were offered a full refund from Cunard, I might try her again. Otherwise, no, I am returning to Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Day 1 Joined the ship at Southampton via the Cruise Connect bus, which was very efficient and would have been dead on time had it not been for the combination of the Southampton Boat Show and a football match which slowed traffic down ... Read More
Day 1 Joined the ship at Southampton via the Cruise Connect bus, which was very efficient and would have been dead on time had it not been for the combination of the Southampton Boat Show and a football match which slowed traffic down somewhat . Embarkation was fast, despite that the fact that I had forgotten to bring the tickets! I took them out to remove the luggage labels and forgot to put them back. At the check-in desk they said "no problem" and checked me in using my passport. That was when that my credit card didn't work on their system but they blamed that on their terminal and said to register it on-board. Impressed with the cabin - sorry, stateroom - plenty of room and a view outside between the lifeboat davits, which I prefer to having a sheer drop owing to my fear of heights. The interactive TV has the name of the previous passengers on it as well as ours. Went to Britannia Grill. Had asked for a table for 2 but our table, 63, is for 6 and located right in the middle. The other guests are a couple of blonde ladies from Southampton, who are on the same deck as us but the other side of the ship and a man and wife from the UK. Conversation is difficult due to the high noise level and the fact that I am totally deaf on one side. Service is quite fast. Day 2 Had breakfast in the Kings Court, wisely as it turned out as everyone complained of the slow service in the Britannia Grill - that's probably because you all tried to eat there at the same time. Had meeting in the Commodore Club with CCs. From memory I think it was Josie and Joan, Malc and Betty, Lynne and David and another couple. And us. After accosting a number of innocent passengers we realized that there is no easy way to identify Cruise Critics as they seem to come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Perhaps a badge would help? It was nice to meet people. We had brought our laptop so registered with the ships system to get WiFi access. Although we could pick up the network, even in our room, it wouldn't log on. Spent ages trying different settings. Dinner in Britannia - the man and wife have been replaced with a couple of ladies from the UK. We later find that the first couple had asked to be moved as it was too noisy. One of the waiters steps back into the path of another who deposits a large amount of drink on the head (and silk dress) of one of the new couple. They offered to clean her dress later but she declined as it was silk and she didn't trust them to get it right. Day 3 Let the computing people try to configure the laptop but eventually they gave up, blaming it on tunneling software installed by BT (I use BT broadband in the UK). I accept this explanation as I've no idea what they are talking about. Apart from writing this review laptop now useless. Went to see former RADA students perform "Bottoms Dream". The production is very good but we later see them in a condensed version of "Great Expectations" which is pretty awful. Apart from the fact that most of the characters seem to be the same as in the first production they have managed to fit it into an hour by dint of racing through it and removing all the pauses. It's a bit like the Reduced Shakespeare Company on steroids but without the humor. If I hadn't been familiar with the book I would have found it totally incomprehensible. All right, I admit it, I'm not and I did. As an amateur actor for many years I was looking forward to the RADA workshops. There were three in the week. The first was voice exercises which I skipped as I find going oo-oo-oo, aa-aa-aa-, etc a teeny bit embarrassing, The second was physical exercises which were quite good. The third was "your opportunity to deliver a Shakespeare speech" for which read "your opportunity to say a line from Shakespeare after a five minute rehearsal". Dinner tonight - last night's new couple had gone. We later found out that one of them was deaf and had found it hard to join in the conversation. They were replaced with a couple of American ladies. Apart from the first night I have been the only man on the table. What an awesome responsibility. Day 4 Dinner - the American couple have gone, never to be seen again. Is it me? The table is still set for 6 but only 4 of us are left, the two ladies from Southampton, my wife and me. Day 5 Still at sea. Spend quite a lot of time in the cabin as not many of the activities really interest us. I could be wrong, but I would have thought that napkin-folding and scarf-tying were pretty much minority interests. The library has an excellent selection of books and one copy of The Times and the Daily Mail We are told that they don't print more owing to the amount of ink needed and the Sunday papers are not printed at all for the same reason. The library has nice seats but the concept of quietness seems to have eluded people, even the staff, one of whom has a penetrating voice that reaches to the farthest corner when he is having a conversation with customers (the library is also a bookshop). In fact, it transpires that apart from in the cabins there is no quiet place on the ship. Day 6 More sea. The cabin balcony is quite useable despite being windy. Went to an excellent lecture by Dr Jeffrey Hoffman, an ex- shuttle astronaut. Earlier in the week there were lectures by Andrew Green, an astronomer so what with the planetarium films I found it fascinating. Day 7 Arrive at Brooklyn. As we had been to NY before we had only booked the shuttle bus to Manhattan. We were told to go to the King's Theatre at 8.45am. The theatre was full and we were eventually called to disembark at 10.43am. The immigration process takes place in a large shed and about 8 to 10 officers deal with the UK passengers. I timed the actual procedure at 4 minutes per couple and we had to wait in line until 11.41am. We got to Manhattan at 12.39am, walked to Macy's, turned round and by then it was time to return to the bus. Some of the later buses had less than an hour in Manhattan. Full marks to Cunard as they refunded our fee for the shuttle although I couldn't help thinking that it had been a day wasted. At dinner our companions tell us that a half bottle of Pol Acker had been left outside their cabin, in fact all the port side cabins on deck 8., but not on the starboard side where we are. At Southampton we were given a half bottle but they were given a full bottle. Later told the purser that some cabins had been given a bottle of Pol Acker but he said that they hadn't. When we insisted he went away and when he returned said that it was an administrative error and they shouldn't have had it. Day 8 Newport. We had booked for Scenes of Newport tour a couple of days ago but last night got a card saying that it was full and we were wait-listed. Decided to wander down to the King's Theatre anyway and were told to go ashore and wait to se if there were any vacancies. Turned out that there were plenty so we had a nice drive along the coast. The weather was more like summer than fall.. Had lunch in a sushi restaurant near the harbor. Delicious. The library has apparently discovered vast reserves of ink as they are now printing several copies of the newspapers and even include the Sunday Times (UK). Day 9 Boston. Another nice day. Took the shuttle bus to Quincy market. Wondered why many shops were shut. realized that it was Sunday. Have lost track of time. Bought one of the many trolley tickets that take you round the city. They are actually good value and run about every 15 minutes so you don't have to wait long. Back at Quincy market there is an amazing variety of snacks in the central hall. Boston is a beautiful city. I would love to come back some time. Day 10 Bar Harbor. Took the most expensive tour, the grand tour with lobster bake. Acadia National Park is very scenic but due to the late fall the trees have only just begun to change color. The programme lists 3 photo opportunities and sure enough 3 is all you get. Although the bus passes some interesting views and items like a beaver lodge, it doesn't stop, so for a photographer it is a bit frustrating. We stopped for lunch at a place not mentioned in the programme for some unknown reason and despite brilliant sunshine ate indoors. We did not have the clam chowder that we had been promised. At Thunder Hole the tide was out so we saw the hole but not the thunder. Apart from the top of Cadillac Mountain, which is spectacular, the few stops seemed to be linked to gift shops rather than the views. I would say that the tour is poor value and you would probably get a much better lobster dinner in the town. Day 11 Halifax. This is Canada so they don't even ask for our passports. Instead of immigration control we file past tourist shops. We then walked into the town via the boardwalk which follows the shoreline. You can even get a free bus round the city although it is packed and not that frequent. At dinner we experiment and find that our table for 6 can easily be converted to a table for 4 by putting the flaps down so we show the waiter and he says that he will do that every night. Had a long conversation with the head waiter regarding service issues. I tell him that I am half deaf and find it difficult to hear and he does a most amusing impression of a deaf person, consisting basically of putting a hand behind one ear and saying "What?". We all explain to him that in a real restaurant the waiters serve from the left and clear away from the right, cutlery is put out at the start of the meal and not pushed through from behind as you are eating, food is not cleared away as half the table is still eating and especially not as you are still conveying the last mouthful from the plate to your mouth, etc. He cheerfully explained that as we were not getting silver service we had to put up with these little problems, and explained the difference in staff/passenger ratio between the Britannia Grill and the Princess Grill. Most people that I speak to seem to think that the problem is just bad staff training. I asked the head waiter why the tables could not be rotated at various times through a long voyage but was told that it would be too complicated. I'm pretty sure that other ships manage it. Day 12 At sea. Decided to do our laundry. There are several laundries on different decks but each one is quite small and heavily used. People get quite irritated when loads of washing are left in the machines and nobody returns for them Unfortunately, no baskets are provided , so if you take somebody's washing out there is nowhere to put it. We heard of one major argument where a man had put his whites in one machine and a single pair of black socks in another, while a long queue was waiting. Toyed with the idea of doing the washing in the middle of the night but decided that everyone else may have the same idea. The guest lecturer today was Art Linkletter who is in his eighties but still an excellent speaker (without notes, too). Cabin interactive TV not working. You can report problems but you have to do it on the interactive TV! Tell the steward and he says that he will get it fixed. The ships system is down for maintenance at the moment so there may be a connection. Hurray! The dinner table has been set for 4. Day 13 Quebec. Another lovely city and a sunny warm day. Together with another couple we hired a taxi for two hours and he gave us a conducted tour. It cost less than the ship's tours and being a smallish vehicle we were able to get through narrow streets. Also, he stopped wherever we wanted for photos. We ended the tour in the upper town, from where it is an easy walk back to the ship. Interactive TV still not working. A very good comedian on tonight, Jon Courtenay. Nearly didn't go as he was billed as a "comedy pianist". Actually he is a brilliant comedian and a brilliant pianist. And singer. We later met him in the lift and he said that they never billed him as a comedy pianist before - somehow to me it conjures up someone who is neither one nor the other. Dinner table set for 6 again. After choice words with the waiter checked with the menu that there wasn't anything that we especially wanted and then left and ate in the Lotus restaurant. Day 14 At sea. Interactive TV now working. Turns out that that connection had been pulled out at the back when the steward drew the curtains. Ate dinner in the Chefs Galley. Highly recommended as the food is nice and you see it cooked. Not sure that chef should have sneezed into his hand and then carried on preparing the crab cakes but the ones that we were served came from the galley. Day 15 At sea again. By now everyone has realized that this is three one-week cruises, rather than one three-week one. The waiters tell us that the menus have a 6-day cycle. There are three major music and dance productions that are repeated each week. RADA have only two productions and their workshops are the same each week. The planetarium shows are repeated. The only things that seem to change are the guest lecturers and the films. The lecturers are excellent but seem only to stay on the ship for a week. Likewise Jon Courtenay who was the best performer but only did two shows. Ate dinner at Todd English. The food was nicely presented but very salty. We ordered a bottle of champagne and they poured us one glass. When the glass was empty I had to ask the waiter to re-fill it but when he did there was only half a glass each At that point they realized that they had mixed up our bottle with someone else's, obviously that of a quicker drinker. For some reason they use enormous plates and the design is such that when you put down your cutlery it slips into the middle of the plate. Didn't leave a tip. Britannia Grill had obviously missed us as they rang our cabin and the maitre d' sent a note of apology and some chocolate covered strawberries. Don't like strawberries but it's the thought that counts. Day 16 Back to Brooklyn. Surely we won't have to go through immigration again? Oh yes, we will! Everyone has to get off the ship, even if they don't want to go ashore. We turn up the King's Theatre at the appointed time and are told to return in twenty minutes. Then a further thirty minutes. This time when we disembark we only have to wait for an hour as we go through immigration, go out through one door, back in through another and wait in a hall until we are allowed back on the ship. For some reason we have been issued with new passes, without our pictures on them, and once on board we go for a drink and find the new passes don't work although to be fair we were able to enter our room with them. The waitress tells us that the staff have also been given new passes with new numbers but their uniforms are all marked with their old numbers for the laundry. The interactive TV has stopped showing our names and has reverted to showing only the previous inhabitants. Ate dinner in Britannia again. Our table companions said that the staff had been quite worried that we had shut ourselves in the cabin and were starving to death but I reassured them on that point. They had remembered to set the table for 4, although for the last few nights there had only been two people at the table. Day 17 Heading home! This time a full bottle of Pol Acker was left outside the starboard cabins but not the port ones. When we told our table companions they complained and were given a half bottle. There very good guest lecturers from the New Yorker magazine, Andy Borowitz, Anthony Lane and Adam Gopnik. Also, ambassador Gwen Clare who spoke about the war against terror and managed to make the subject interesting. Unlike in the US British immigration are on board and seeing people in the dining-room for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Long queues. Figure that if we go about fifteen minutes before they are due to finish the queues will have gone. I was right. Dinner in the Britannia. All went well except for feeling of dEjà vu on seeing menu. Day 18 Only four days and we will be home. Has it come to this? Dreaming of home comforts and walking dogs again. Had an invitation from Elderhostel (?) to a cocktail party. Turned out that we had been invited by mistake so we drank their champagne and left. Day 19 Had lunch in the Britannia Grill instead of dinner. The lunch is very good. Neither of us are big eaters and we find that we cannot cope with both lunch and dinner in the Grill so it is either/or. Day 20 Dinner in Britannia so that we could say goodbye to our table companions. Waiter gives us a folder with copies of the menus in. There are six of them and half or ours are in French. How does he know I speak French? And why after three weeks can he not remember that I am deaf on my left side? Doesn't he wonder why I keep ignoring him when he stands there waiting for the order? Day 21 Have lunch in the Britannia Grill but not dinner. Reflections on the voyage. Well, it is very obviously three separate cruises although a couple of month sago when I asked if I could upgrade one leg to Princess Grill I was told that it was all one trip so I would have to upgrade the whole lot. I declined. It is a beautiful ship and the crossing was smooth despite a force 9/10 tail wind on the Eastward crossing. The actual public rooms are not as impressive as I expected. The layout of the ship means that you don't see all that much at once except when you look along the corridors where the cabins, sorry, staterooms, are. Come on, guys, the Winter Garden is not modelled on Kew Gardens. Kew doesn't have a few artificial trees and a painted ceiling. The central atrium from the Royal Court Theatre to the Britannia Grill looks good but much of the time it is filled with trestle tables laden with cheap "bargains" and mementos or photographers and their painted backgrounds. It looks more like the center of many UK cities a few years ago. Most have cleaned up their act now. I overheard a senior member of staff giving an interview to the press in the Commodore Club and telling them what sort of perks people expected if they had paid $50,000 for a suite. Well, I could afford $50,000 for a suite but I don't think that I would pay it. Before we went I thought that Kindlychap was mad when he suggested paying extra for the Princess Grill but now I see his point but resent having to pay for service that I think should be available all through the ship. Day 22 Home! Foliage in the UK looking lovely as it just turning color. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our 3rd cruise since March. We had this year been with P&O and Holland America, both had been faultless. Embarked at New York after a $25 cab ride from the Waldorf. Our taxi driver didn't know the location of the pier, ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise since March. We had this year been with P&O and Holland America, both had been faultless. Embarked at New York after a $25 cab ride from the Waldorf. Our taxi driver didn't know the location of the pier, I'm told this goes for many as I had embarked here last year with Crown Princess. Embarkation was smooth and pleasant. On entering the ship it was nice but lacked a wow factor. Our cabin Steward did his job but was surly and uncommunicative. The worst we had. However we reckoned he was far from home at Christmas so were understanding and tried to be pleasant to him. Otherwise the vast majority of staff encountered casually around the ship never failed to greet us. Our cabin was on Deck 5 the 2nd from the end and we discovered it was a disabled cabin. There was a lot of room for a wheelchair but this meant a lack of wardrobe and seating space. We had no settee and one chair at the dressing table and one at a small table in beside the bathroom. Only way to watch TV was in bed. Poor wardrobe facilities for a female on a 14 night cruise - what if there had been 2 of us? Toilet products were provided, we had to ask for robes. Nice touch at christmas to give each cabin a paper weight. The ship is enormous and very long. Imagine what we felt when we would be at 1 end away from the cabin and realized we had forgotten something! Such a chore to go back. Timing became essential as we found whenever we had to be somewhere at a particular time planning had to be done about getting there. The ship is difficult to find your way around because of the size and the number of public rooms. We only found 2 on the last day. This is one reason I would never sail on her again. Dining (we were in Britannia)was just ok. Food choices were poor in comparison to other ships. My husband asked for a plain steak one night and was refused!!!! This is unheard of in cruising (we have cruised 20 times. Our waitress was surly, poor and slow. We discovered she had been a waitress only 4 months as 30% of staff had been called to QV and others then promoted. She obviously had no clout in the dining room. It was our poorest service ever. We dined in Kings Court during the day which was ok. Desserts were like cardboard and repetitive. At breakfast the chef refused to make me fresh pancakes - the batter was behind him and breakfast service was in midstream. Omelettes, burgers, sandwiches due to the size of the service station were too slow to wait for. There are 4 parts to Kings Court and often hubby would want 1 thing from the 1st and I from the last - so where do you sit, arrange to meet without food going cold? This would also put me off sailing on this again. The Golden Lion pub food was excellent and service was great. Ship does not allow for eating ones breakfast on deck as there are no facilities allowing for this and setup of Kings Court does not allow for this either. Entertainment was poor in variety and quality and anyone I spoke to commented on it. However Christmas eve, night and New Years eve were filled with enjoyment and fun, although again the shows were poorly attended. attendance at shows was poor due it seems to the poor quality. The library was good, a great variety of books. Shops were as you expect no worse than any other line. Gym was terrific, the 1st time I've used one on land or sea. Tour excursions - we did our own except for 1 day my husband golfed and there was no cunard rep with them and the bus left him and 3 others behind meaning they had to dash in a taxi for the ship. However he got a 50% refund which was great. The complaint however was ignored for 2 days and only acknowledged when we put it in writing. The pool areas were so plain a child of 5 asked to draw a swimming pool could have done it. I suppose this is because it does so much transatlantic work outdoor areas are not needed. But my goodness, anything would have been better than this drab effort. My husband is a smoker and was appalled at the lack of outdoor smoking arrangements ie. one fixed ashtray in middle of the ship on deck 8.Plenty of inside smoking areas (which he doesn't agree with). Great that there was mass everyday and interdenominational services when appropriate. Nice for a holiday cruise. On Christmas eve Midnight Mass and carols around the tree were lovely. All in all an elegant ship but not one you would raise an eye at. Service was the poorest we have ever encountered, we were never made to feel special and no-one ever went out of their way for us. No cruise is bad but this is the poorest we have ever taken and by the sound of each and every experienced cruiser on board they were in FIRM agreement. I will not cruise with Cunard again, they need to learn how to treat people well and take tips from Princess, P&O, Celebrity, even Thompson could show them a thing or 2. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
EMBARKATION: A warning for anyone who has a mishap in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal or walking up the gangway to the ship. Until you set foot on the QM2, Cunard isn't responsible for your safety despite the Cunard uniforms worn by the ... Read More
EMBARKATION: A warning for anyone who has a mishap in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal or walking up the gangway to the ship. Until you set foot on the QM2, Cunard isn't responsible for your safety despite the Cunard uniforms worn by the personnel who process you in the terminal and greet you as you make your way to the ship. If you fall (as I did when I tripped over a raised metal joint in the gangway), you MUST report the accident to the Port Authority Police, not to Cunard. I discovered this too late. To not imply liability of any sort (I assume), the ship's personnel showed zero concern for my injury with the exception of the ship's doctor. Although the purser's office became aware of my fall as soon as I hobbled onto the ship, at no time was I informed that I needed to report the accident to the port authorities. Instead, I was told to proceed to my cabin where I could scoop ice out of the ice bucket to treat my knee. There wasn't even one inquiry about my condition from any member of the purser's staff which is in charge of "guest relations" aboard ship. They didn't relate to this guest at all. CABIN: Our cabin was midship on deck 8 and we had a balcony with a semi-obstructed view. The room was comfortable. Its decor had a tasteful, contemporary theme and the only complaint was a lack of closet space for a 10 night cruise with several formal nights. One closet had a standard clothes rack, but the other had a pull out system that made it difficult to hang and remove clothing. Our cabin steward was attentive, friendly and professional and the bed was comfortable. DINING: Like many other reviewers, we found service and food in the Britannia Dining Room to be no better than on the Carnival cruise we took last winter. Because Cunard is now owned by Carnival we weren't surprised, but it was disappointing, especially since passengers pay a premium to sail on the QM2. The layout of the King's Court Buffet is a disaster and service there needs a great deal of attention. The grill, which is the only place to obtain a sandwich or a burger at lunch, is in a small hallway and always had a long line. Ditto the waffle station at breakfast where my husband stood in line for 20 minutes one morning. Once passengers discovered they could order freshly made eggs on the buffet lines, those ground to a halt as they waited for their orders. And since the QM2 sails in tropical water, there should be an opportunity to eat outside in the fresh air away from the buffet's tumult, but there are no outdoor tables. There was a lot of griping from fellow passengers about the cafeteria atmosphere of the King's Court. ENTERTAINMENT: A couple of the acts were outstanding, but the majority of the shows were mediocre. We enjoyed the full size movie screen in the combo planetarium/theater. The casino is woefully inadequate for a ship this size and its tired decor isn't in keeping with the rest of the ship. On a sea day we tried the dance lessons in the ballroom, but for some reason the instructors didn't stand on a raised area and it was impossible to see their feet and follow any steps. We left after 10 minutes. The deck is lovely for strolls, the Commodore Club is a wonderful place to sip a drink or read a book and the library is outstanding. We had high expectations of a Cunard voyage, but unfortunately the experience didn't live up to the line's hype. This was an impression that was echoed by many others, especially the international passengers we met. One man from South Africa was incredulous that the gym, connected to the Canyon Ranch Spa, had no shower facilities. It's little things like this that detract from what should have been one of those trips of a lifetime. We will not sail with Cunard again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
We booked this cruise due to the historical significance of the 3 Queens in the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty leaving Brooklyn on 13th January. We got off to a great start very quick efficient and friendly embarkation onto the ship to ... Read More
We booked this cruise due to the historical significance of the 3 Queens in the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty leaving Brooklyn on 13th January. We got off to a great start very quick efficient and friendly embarkation onto the ship to a cheery welcome on board made even better with the half bottle of champagne chilling in our stateroom compliments of Cunard. ACCOMMODATION: Was as described in the brochure we were in a balcony cabin the interior was beautifully decorated and well lit with off set lighting. However we had to get the stateroom steward to come and fix the television the first night, to get the mechanic to fix the heating the second night (we had spent the night with cold air blowing directly down on us) and the problem of lumpy beds did not rectify itself the whole journey. ENTERTAINMENT: THEATRE: This covered a wide spectrum from simple comedy so simple it almost burst our sides laughing, to the mediocre run of the mill show to the magnificent Dance shows Apassionata and female soloist whose rendition of 'Music of the Night' was exceptional. It had lighthearted to heavy classical piano. We picked our shows and probably would have settled for a more middle of the road style for the full journey. The theatre itself needs a revamp as I found it kind of drab and from sides and front row middle balcony the views of the stage were poor. COMMODORE CLUB: Lovely to see my partner relaxing with a cocktail to the dulcet tones from the piano. Had to instruct them how to pour a Baileys over the ice otherwise would have needed an icepick to get through to the one I was served - quickly sorted though. QUEENS ROOM: Beautiful ballroom pity about the choice of music. I watched the poor dance escorts escort ladies to very slooooooooow waltz music, sambas...too many of, a few quick steps - and was there a foxtrot? IT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO HAVE BALLROOM MUSIC IN THE BALLROOM NOT THE LIGHT JAZZ RHYTHM THAT WAS CONSTANT NIGHT AFTER NIGHT. Did no one tell Mr Quinn there are some people who can actually dance would like to dance without the jazzy 2 step beat. This was a let down BIG TIME. So be warned the QM2 may advertise the biggest ballroom on the oceans but they do not provide proper ballroom music to dance 2. The better orchestra accompanies the theatre shows. I would have loved a waltz at one of the themed balls, Black & White, Pirates & Masked Ball but even I could not have slowed to almost a halt rhythm. Excellent singer though Mr Paul Ritchie ....... FOOD: RESTAURANT: Ouch............. the Britannia Restaurant could do with more staff. We were in a table for 2 on the 2nd level. The restaurant was chilly had slow service as 'our' 2 waiters serviced around 20 tables at 1st sitting. We were very lucky to have 2 very attentive and professional waiting staff. We had moved from a table of 6 the second day (my partner had developed a cold and did not want to pass it on). We were able to move table with no problems and could even have changed sitting if we had wanted. The quality of the food was not great and the choice not to our taste. However our serving staff did an excellent job in keeping up morale. FOOD SERVICE COURT 7th floor. Impossible impractical and i'm outta here. Not for the fainthearted. We complained bitterly to the Maitre d the service, cleanliness, staff morale - a definite need to retrain the staff in this area. If you can avoid staff trudging centrally up a small passageway on a very long elongated design of a dining area separated into separate dining sections with their trolleys & vacuum cleaners you are lucky. If we were to try the same on the roads we would get penalty points. The lack of cutlery, plates and bowls and occasionally luke warm food (nope I tell a lie it was almost cold the first day - that's when my partner poured soup over her meat and potatoes as the food was not labelled and the soup resembled some kind of thick gravy). Complaints you could have heard them a mile off in all kinds of accents so its not just a local custom then! If you visit mid day and afternoon there are some pretty good choices and there are a few staff who realize they are they not only there to do a job but to keep us fare paying passengers happy. It's finding them. Too many tables not cleared and people looking for seats............ Referee! GOLDEN LION PUB: Wish we had of found this sooner. Typical pub lunch ploughmans, fish & chips, cottage pie etc warm, quick delivery - mid afternoon. Would recommend you give it a try glad its non smoking during the lunches would have liked it to be non smoking full stop. QUEENS ROOM afternoon tea ......... Don't miss this you will be in for a treat prompt attentive service with a neverending supply of tea and delicately cut crustless sandwiches followed by dainty tartlets and scones with jam and cream. Lovely relaxing atmosphere to background music by harpist / resident band - sometimes there is a tea dance pity about the music choice. OVERALL: Very impressive public areas loved the lift lobbies and the choice of carpeting and floral displays. Very easy ship to maneuver around - other than 7th floor Kings Court. The pool areas were excellent. The 12th floor under cover pool was well apportioned and it was lovely to see dual pyramids of rolled fresh towels ready for use. The shower room /toilets were spotless and immediately on site of the pool / 2 jacuzzis. Well worth a visit Was it value for money..........no I cant say it was Will I be back...............I doubt it Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
My wife and I booked the 4 day President's Weekend Cruise on Cunard because I heard that the QM2 was the best ship in the world. Any while in some areas I would agree there were far more areas for improvement. Let me start with the ... Read More
My wife and I booked the 4 day President's Weekend Cruise on Cunard because I heard that the QM2 was the best ship in the world. Any while in some areas I would agree there were far more areas for improvement. Let me start with the positives, Todd English, was amazing, had i known how good it was i would have booked all 4 nights!!! Our server Paul was friendly, and wonderful. He was the only person on the entire ship that I would say seemed friendly. We booked an A1 cabin so we dined in the Britannia, it was extremely disappointing. The food was average at best and the service, well lets just say i have received better service at IHOP. The waiter just dropped the food and ran, one night i had to wait over 10 minutes for a drink and they never checked to see how the food was, it was drop and run....very sad for a ship that is suppose to be top of the line. Afternoon tea was nice, the tea was great, scones lovely and finger sandwiches were enjoyable but the Queens Room could not handle the number of people and sometimes you waited for 15 minutes for a table. Had i worked there i would have walked around to the people standing and apologized for the wait, but that would have taken time and none of the servers, waiters or restaurant staff seemed to care about the guests. I was told that everyone speaks English and that is questionable. I sat with someone who asked their server for a drink 3 times before writing down the request, it was scotch on the rocks, not a difficult drink. Cunard talks about White Star service but I am sad to say that i never experienced anything close to it. I sailed on Celebrity last year and they were far superior in service and quality of food, with the exception of Todd English. Another positive was spa, the massage was great and the aqua spa was relaxing. The ship as a whole was beautiful, the library was huge, pools/hot tubs clean and nice and public area's extremely clean. We will probably book the Independence Day voyage because the 4th of July in Boston would be nice and I belive everyone deserves a 2nd chance. I will be sending a letter to cunard because i am curious as to what they will say about my complaints...if their corporate office is like the wait staff, i doubt i will get a response. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
My trip was booked through Cunard Lines direct. A four day Presidents Weekend Cruise to Princess Cay in the Bahamas The trip was a combination retirement/birthday present and was being paid for by a third party. Unfortunately the person ... Read More
My trip was booked through Cunard Lines direct. A four day Presidents Weekend Cruise to Princess Cay in the Bahamas The trip was a combination retirement/birthday present and was being paid for by a third party. Unfortunately the person who paid for the trip encountered a number of difficulties with Cunard Customer Service which is headquartered in Santa Clarita California. Customer service agents ranged from just plain old "bored" to down right "rude". With even one saying the payor could call her back and when the payor did call back the customer service rep refused to talk with the person who was paying for the cruise. Apparently the problem was that a third party was paying for the cruise and that seemed to throw customer service at Cunard into a tail spin. Finally after being put in touch with a customer service supervisor the issues were resolved. However, not before the Cunard computer system attempted to increase the cost of the cruise and the supervisor had to manually correct the pricing. Queen Mary 2 was scheduled to sail from New York - Round Trip - to Princess Qay in the Bahamas on Friday February 15th, 2008, a four day Presidents Day weekend trip which should have been an excellent marketing opportunity for Cunard. I left San Francisco On Thursday February 14th for the five and a half hour flight to New York. United Airlines flight # 8 left on time and arrived on time, very smooth flying at 37,000 feet above a country covered with snow and ice. I stayed at the Sheraton Manhattan at Times Square. Hotel is comfortable although the room was small. However, it is situated in an excellent location within walking distance to several Broadway theatres and Times Square. I left the hotel on Friday the 15th at about 11:30 AM for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Pier 12. The hotel doorman made sure the taxi driver knew where the terminal was before I got in the taxi. The ride took about 40 minutes and cost about $40.00, with tip, to get to the cruise terminal from Manhattan. Note, in the cruise documents that Cunard sent out they indicated I should arrive about 2:00 PM at the Cruise Terminal. However, when I arrived about 12:15 PM passengers were already boarding the ship. All cruise lines set these arbitrary times for arrival at the terminal but my best advice is to always arrive about noon and you will not have to wait in long lines for boarding which also gives you an opportunity to look around the ship prior to sailing. The embarkation process was easy, although they did not have enough "check in" work stations, I would imagine that the lines would get longer as the afternoon wore on especially if the majority of passengers heeded Cunards instructions for arriving at the pier. Upon boarding you were met with several staff members asking you if you knew where your stateroom was and since I did I went directly there. I did not see any passengers being escorted to their stateroom. Upon arrival at my stateroom, 5227, an inside stateroom I was pleasantly surprised as it was larger than I expected and the bed had been set up in the configuration that I had requested. The stateroom was very nicely decorated, with quality appointments throughout and the bathroom was completely tiled with the exception of the shower. Also the bathroom was larger than I expected. The stateroom attendant did his job, but did not provide any better than average service. One thing about boarding early is the opportunity to enjoy the "Welcome Aboard" lunch in the buffet restaurant on Deck 7. The buffet is seperated into three sections, Asian, Carvery and Italian. The space of each seems confined and with not many windows. Food was average to poor with not many choices. This was the only time I ate a meal in the buffet restaurant. After Lunch I went straight to the Britannia Restaurant which is aft on three deck and two deck. My table assignment, 2nd sitting, was in my room on a floor plan of the restaurant. However, I was glad I went to see the table as it was not in a good position. I had asked to be placed at a table for eight, however I was assigned to a table for six right in the middle of an aisle where the waiters would be whizzing by on either side. I went immediately to the maitre d and he changed me to a table for eight in a much better location. The maitre d was very helpful and pleasant in meeting my request. If you don't like your table assignment always ask for a change that you are happy with. Overall the food in the Britannia Dining Room was average and with generally fewer choices than on other cruises I have enjoyed. My table mates were very nice, not nosey and/or full of questions. Our dinner conversation was always pleasant. If you are at a table with the wrong people ask for a change right away as you don't want to suffer through every dinner with people you don't like or are uncomfortable with. The waiter was pleasant and efficient. However, just like on other ships where the gratuities are automatically applied to your shipboard account the service staff do not develop a positive service relationship with their passengers because the gratuities are already in their pockets. I prefer to tip at the end of a voyage for service well done. In actual fact I think that service staff who provide excellent/outstanding service can actually earn more in gratuities if they are rewarded at the end of a voyage. Again, food quality, temperature and variety were just average in the Britannia Restaurant and may be symptomatic of the fact that Queen Mary 2 have three other restaurants, Britannia Club, Princess Dining Room and Queens Dining Room all based on your room accommodation. It only stands to reason that if the food is excellent in the Britannia Restaurant there won't be anywhere to go with the other three restaurants in terms of variety and excellence. There were two formal nights (four day cruise?), no grand buffet, no singing waiters and we never saw the Captain from beginning to end of the voyage. Generally the Dining room was clean with the tables only set with minimal silver not the traditional settings that you find on some ships. The dining room seemed confined especially on three deck where there were mezzanine type arrangements for the tables with only the top row of tables able to see out of the windows. Outside of the Britannia Restaurant there was one restroom each for ladies and gents, they were very small and not serviced regularly as one could see with paper towels consistently overflowing the trash and ending up on the floor. We had a day at Sea and arrived at Princess Qay in the Bahamas and we utilized the tender to go ashore (well organized and not much waiting). The water was a beautiful blue and the sand was pure white. However, nothing really to do there other than scuba dive, snorkel or swim, only one shop.. I did take the Glass Bottom boat ride which was interesting. Saw a baby sea turtle but did not see much in the way of other fish. In general the public room are comfortable but not grand. The Grand Lobby is especially small. They have a very large library and book store on eight deck, kind of out of the way but it is worthwhile when you get there. Afternoon tea is served in the Queen's room every day starting at 3:30 PM, get there early if you want a seat. They have a harpist who is a very good musician but not dressed to fit the occasion. The casino is poorly laid out and spread out over two rooms, noisy and very crowded in the evening. The Golden Lion Pub serves pub lunches everyday including very nice fish and chips. You can have your lunch in the Golden Lion at no extra charge, if you can get in. The Queen Mary 2 has an 1,100 seat theater, however I would classify the entertainment only average at best. We only saw the Cruise Director once a day and that was at the end of the show, all the rest of the time he was in hiding. In addition there is a planetarium where they have daily shows, tickets required (free). The theater is called Illuminations and is also where they show (old) movies. One interesting highlight around the ship are a series of murals telling the cunard story and picturing some of the stars who travelled on the original Queen Mary throughout the years including my good friend Bing Crosby. On our return day at sea there was a force 6 gale at our stern with a following sea and the ship rode very well, not much rolling and or pitching, which was very good indeed. Truly a ship built for transatlantic crossings. Queen Mary 2 is not designed for cruising as we know cruising today. The decks are not conducive toward outdoor activities and the three pools they have are very small and not well situated. In talking to a number of other passengers on board they all said that they were disappointed in the Queen Mary 2 and had expected more in the way of service and luxury and in fact the four day cruise was over priced. Very few stated that they would be interested in travelling on board Queen Mary 2 again on a longer voyage. I believe that Cunard missed a wonderful marketing opportunity with this four day trip as I feel that they did not put their best foot forward. Queen Mary 2 is definitely not competitive in the Caribbean cruise market and I would not recommend it for any Caribbean cruise with so may other choices out there. Transatlantic yes, Caribbean no! Disembarkation was organized and completed ahead of schedule Finally there was not any survey for passengers to complete at the end of the voyage and that is why I felt compelled to write this critique which I hope the readers will find useful. In summary with the long proud history of Cunard they should do much better with their flag ship Queen Mary 2. They missed many opportunities on this four day voyage. Thanks for reading these thoughts and about my experiences aboard Cunard Queen Mary 2. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
We were very excited about taking this cruise on the QM2. When we boarded (which went very smoothly) we were in awe of the Grand Lobby & Hallway near the elevators. That was about it though. It is a beautiful ship, but the layout is ... Read More
We were very excited about taking this cruise on the QM2. When we boarded (which went very smoothly) we were in awe of the Grand Lobby & Hallway near the elevators. That was about it though. It is a beautiful ship, but the layout is very strange. It does not flow, it is choppy and you have to go through rooms to get to other rooms. Smoking is allowed. You can smell it in the hallways. There are ashtrays by the elevators for some reason and the smell was awful. I heard many complaints. On the program that we received each day it had info on the restaurants and pubs. It stated that the Golden Lion Pub was non-smoking. It is not. There is a smoking and non-smoking area. They would have all of their trivia games and get together's in this pub which was awkwardly shaped and small. We tried to get in a couple of times, but there was no room. It did smell of cigarettes though so we really didn't want to. There were other areas of the ship such as the Winter Garden Room that would have been perfect for the games. That room was hardly ever used for some reason except by the Art Auction which took up a ridiculous amount of space. On other cruise ships we have been on they would do the auction in a hallway area. This room did have a bar, but the service was awful. It was a very pretty room though. The service on the ship throughout wasn't like other cruises we have taken, but I think we are spoiled. Compared to Holland America and Celebrity at least. Our waiter in the Britannia Dining Room was exceptional and professional as well as the wine steward. The food in that dining room was also exceptional. We had dinner in the Todd English Restaurant one night and that was also wonderful! In the Kings Court area, no one helped you with your trays and forget it if you wanted to buy a beverage. This was throughout the ship. The waiters/waitresses would walk around the pool areas with trays, but did not ask people if they wanted a drink, you had to wave them down. Even the cabin attendant who was very nice was not as exceptional as the other cruise ships we have been on. Maybe they have too large of an area to cover. We felt the ship was overcrowded and there just were not enough areas to sit and relax, inside as well as outside. The indoor pool area in which the roof does open was about 1/4 of the size of the Noordam/Holland America. We enjoy eating breakfast or lunch on the decks by the pool areas. The food area was on the 7th floor, many floors down from the deck areas. All in all the British on the ship seemed to have a wonderful time and enjoyed every minute of the Oceanliner. Their were 1800 British passengers as well as a large group of French and Germans. The group of people I was with thought it was a great ship, but were very disappointed and will not be going on it again. They did have a very large ballroom...I would have rather had a larger pool area. I guess it was just too formal for us. Casual night requires a sports jacket. Informal a sports jacket and tie and formal night a tux or formal dark suit. It got old real quick for us. The shows each night were so terrific. The dancers and singers were incredible as far as I was concerned. The costumes and scenery were also wonderful. The other shows they had were also very enjoyable. I have to say that the shows on the QM2 were the best I have seen on a cruise. It is an experience that we are glad we took, but we will definitely be going back to "cruise lines". They should look into the non-smoking policies just like the rest of the world is doing. When you are feeling a little queasy smelling cigarette smoke does not help at all. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
My parents decided to treat the entire family to the Easter Getaway cruise on the QM2, a 4 night cruise with a stop at Princess Cay. All of us who went, myself and my wife, my brother and a friend, and my parents, have gone on many ... Read More
My parents decided to treat the entire family to the Easter Getaway cruise on the QM2, a 4 night cruise with a stop at Princess Cay. All of us who went, myself and my wife, my brother and a friend, and my parents, have gone on many cruises, mostly on the Disney Cruise Line. While the Queen Mary 2 is perhaps the most beautiful and well appointed ship we have ever been on, with art everywhere that showcased the proud history of Cunard, wood paneling, and breathtaking murals and reliefs, it was certainly lacking in other areas, particularly the staff of the main dining room, and to a lesser degree our cabin steward. On all of the cruises we have ever been on, those are three key people in making your cruise a success. None of these people introduced themselves to us, or took the time to learn our names or our preferences. While we could never complain about the quality of the work done by the Cabin Steward, the fact that we never saw him or met him just seemed odd to us. No excuse can be found for our dining room staff. They never introduced themselves, and were often slow in getting food out or clearing plates. Even simple things, like refilling a glass of water, often took asking two or three times. The quality of the food helped make up for this, but I just felt I could get better service at the local Applebee's, and is the far worst of any dining room staff I have experienced on my 6 cruises. We did dine twice at Todd English, once for Lunch, and once for Dinner, and thankfully there the service was commiserate with the rest of the ship. Although I thought it odd that there was a pool and sun deck right behind the restaurant, blocking the sight lines of the ocean. All in all, I might sail Cunard again, if the price and itinerary were right. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
The Queen Mary 2 Easter sailing from Brooklyn sounded like an ideal break for a long weekend. I had always wanted to try the QM2 but generally don't have time to take one of the longer voyages it usually sails. During the cold winter ... Read More
The Queen Mary 2 Easter sailing from Brooklyn sounded like an ideal break for a long weekend. I had always wanted to try the QM2 but generally don't have time to take one of the longer voyages it usually sails. During the cold winter months we booked our trip for me and three friends and spent those remaining weeks daydreaming of sea air and the sandy beach. As a somewhat experienced cruiser (this was my 13th voyage), I thought I would be in for an unparalleled experience aboard QM2. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality. I flew into LaGuardia as it appeared to be the closest airport to the Brooklyn Cruise Port. A word of caution to those coming by cab or car service: no one knows how to access the port. It is a fairly new facility and most cruise ships sail from Manhattan, so bring directions. I had to call Cunard's 800 number from the taxi to get directions while we were en route. Upon arrival at the port, check-in was quick and efficient. I found my stateroom easily and without assistance. The balcony room was pleasantly appointed with the usual features (TV, in room fridge, small sofa, etc...) I did feel that the room and especially the sofa were smaller than I had experienced in other balcony accommodations on other lines. The bathroom, however, was definitely a bit bigger than most cruise lines. There was really very little closet space, I can't imagine what passengers on a voyage of multiple weeks do for storage space. I also felt it was very cheap for a premium line to not have regular hangars in the closet, instead they were the type that hook into a central rod to prevent anyone from stealing the hangars. Our cabin steward was an invisible yet efficient presence throughout the trip, we did not see him very often but he always kept the room tidy. After a snack at the buffet following the muster drill and an hour so of wandering around the ship, it was time for our dinner on the late seating in the Britannia Dining Room. This is where any pretenses at providing guests with a premium product went right out the window. Upon entering the upper level of the dining room we told the greeter our table number and were told vaguely, that we were "upstairs." After wandering around the upper level without assistance we found our table and sat down. And sat. And sat. No one came to offer us menus, bread, nor water. Eventually one of the waiters realized that no one was serving us and we were brought menus. He hurriedly took our orders, including our dessert order, without any introduction and left us languishing still without water glasses filled or bread being offered. After asking several of the staff members in our area we were able to get iced tea and a very minimal level of service. Two of my traveling companions are hotel food and beverage managers and they were in absolute agony watching the poor service as it unfolded before our eyes. The staff were in utter disarray and there appeared to be no maitre d' or head waiter to attempt to correct their floundering operation. Once it actually arrived the food was good but nothing spectacular. I would compare it to Royal Caribbean in terms of quality and presentation. As the cruise went on, the service slowly improved, but to nowhere near the standards one would expect from any cruise line. Over the course of 4 nights we had three different waiters. Sometimes there would be an assistant waiter but the service never flowed in a proper manner. We would occasionally see a head waiter in our area but he seemed utterly unable to change the dismal service that guests were receiving. In our area of the dining room there were many tables that were not full so my only explanation for the positively awful dining room service would be due to understaffing We were hoping this poor service would be limited to the Britannia but it was also the case in several other dining venues. On the second day of the cruise we decided to have a late lunch at the Golden Lion Pub, which offers a limited menu of English-style pub dishes. They were half empty but again, no one came to take our order or to offer us drinks. Dirty dishes were strewn across the unoccupied tables. After having placed our order we actually had to go to the bar and ask for waters since ours never came. The service in the buffet restaurants was equally lackluster. Tables were left with uncleared plates long after guests had left. The buffet items were of the same quality as mainstream cruise lines. Lines were always lengthy and the layout of the buffet rooms was poor. The items on the buffets were not replenished frequently, you would often get to the front of the line only to find there was no more bacon, French fries, etc. They also would only maintain one buffet venue open outside of the peak meal hours, so if you wanted a late breakfast or lunch, there was only one buffet open and it was completely overrun with people. Additionally, I found that during off-peak hours the employees closed up the buffet lines about 10 minutes before the closing times posted in the ship's daily program. Employees in all areas of the ship seemed overworked and somewhat distant from their guests. Part of this I expected due to the British standards of service that I had anticipated aboard QM2. But overall, no crew members made attempts to get to know the guests or develop personal relationships as I have seen on other lines. I also found myself having numerous communication difficulties with the crew, many of whom had rather poor English skills. As a speaker of several other languages I understand the difficulties in learning English, and certainly don't expect native speaker proficiency. However, this crew was not up to the standards of other cruise ships. Some comments have been made that the short cruises cannot be compared to a regular Cunard voyage. All the guests we interacted with were experienced cruisers who observed normal levels of decorum as well as dinner dress codes. It was clear by the empty tables in our section in the dining room as well as the fact that cabins were still being sold online two days prior to sailing that this voyage was not at full capacity. Asides from the subpar service, the cruise was actually rather fun. The brief stop at Princess Cays was blessed with good weather. The ship has several pools and ample deck space for sunbathers, a great library, and a good gym. The charge for the spa facilities is ridiculous and not comparable to other lines. The shows were enjoyable if a bit hokey and definitely not Vegas or even Carnival quality. I did enjoy the attention to detail concerning Cunard and its history through the exhibits scattered around the ship. Unfortunately, when you and your dinner companions are suggested to agonizingly slow, incompetent service night after night, it began to wear on the members of our group and really had a negative effect on our overall vacation experience. Regardless of the length of the voyage, Cunard has fallen short in the areas of crew training and proper staffing. As it stands today, sailing on Cunard provides you with a subpar product at premium prices. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
As we embarked from Pier 12 in Brooklyn, NY I was so amazed at how beautiful this ship truly was. The outside was extravagant, and only led my imagination to so much inside. I am in my 20's have been on the Carnival before this trip ... Read More
As we embarked from Pier 12 in Brooklyn, NY I was so amazed at how beautiful this ship truly was. The outside was extravagant, and only led my imagination to so much inside. I am in my 20's have been on the Carnival before this trip and that was the best ship I have ever been on. Upon entering the Vessel we were nicely greeted by the attentive staff- and had our pictures taken by friendly men. The staff was extremely elegant, and attentive. If I could rate this staff in comparison to the staff on the Carnival I would say the Carnival staff were more lively and conversations with the members on board, whereas, the crew on Queen Mary 2 were very very professional. (Depends which you like better, I enjoyed the Carnival setting). The check-in process was easy and fast, we went into our cabins and were very satisfied with it. The room service ( which is 24 hours free of charge ) was amazing, and we ordered it every night. I went on this ship with my family, and as soon as we entered we saw no one under the age of 50. The members of this ship were 50+ and the theme of the ship really reflected it. The ship was crowded in a lot of spots, especially on deck 2 and 3 whenever we wanted to use the elevator. Also, the people...who were in their "twilight years" were moving extremely slow.. so that could have been the reason as well. The food was mediocre. Carnival's food was better. We were seated in the Britannia restaurant, luckily there were 6 of us so we just sit at one table not needing to sit with any strangers. The service was very slow, but the poor guys seemed like they had a lot of tables to attend too. Also, the food was in SUCH SMALL quantities. Unfortunately, If you want to dine right then don't follow the restaurant, dine on Deck 7 at the King's Court where its open style buffet, you can take as much quantity as you'd like. The shows were alright, they were extremely short and there was only 2 shows in a night, there was no late night fun or anything - The carnival used to have late night comedy shows and fun shows ... this ship was far too elegant for that. If you enjoy dressing up every night for 5 nights, you will enjoy this ship. Dress Code is VERY Strict. For pastime - me and my other friend who is also in her 20's just took pictures and hung out at the pub. The photographers were very nice and elegant- I enjoyed them. The canyon ranch spa's prices were atrocious, but we had absolutely nothing to do except for that and eating. Just as a tip - if you are younger than 45 you might not enjoy this as much, mainly because the activities to do are not geared towards the younger crowd. The royal court theatre ( where all the shows were ) was the only place to watch shows, and then after that the fun stopped. (Which was about 9P) In the end of it, we were surprised with a 55 dollar bill for using the restaurant of Britannia which we were assigned too, and we weren't the only ones charged... the whole row of people were charged. So be careful of unwanted charges... you will have to pay them, because they will be a surprise and come up. Maybe we chose the wrong ship to be on for activities and fun - Hopefully this review will make you understand the theme better of this ship. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
My husband and I were on the QM2 on her inaugural transatlantic crossing and have just completed our 7th. What a comparison! The first one was great. Since then the service and entertainment have constantly deteriorated. It appears as ... Read More
My husband and I were on the QM2 on her inaugural transatlantic crossing and have just completed our 7th. What a comparison! The first one was great. Since then the service and entertainment have constantly deteriorated. It appears as though nothing is up to the standard the Cunard name implies ever since Carnival bought the line. The last one was worst of all. The Good: The ship is lovely, no getting away from it. The cabins are well laid out with lots of storage room. The library has a good selection of books and the laundry facilities on many decks are very convenient even if one has to wait a while. The Bad: The food was quite mediocre. Overall it should have been much better. If you like good cheese,forget it. There should be a decent selection, but we had what I call "mousetrap". The waiters in the Britannia Restaurant were poorly, or not at all, trained. They seemed always in a rush, charging from table to table in an effort to keep up with the demands. May be short staffed? None of them appeared to care a lot. Of course they do work terrible hours but that should not interfere with the passengers enjoyment.T wo of the wines we ordered were unavailable,and that was the first night out! Were they on the menu to impress us with the big selection offered? The Maitre D' stopped by several tables including ours. During our short conversation he found out that I had ordered frog legs.  He commented that he would never eat such a dish. We ate one meal in the Carvery where my husband had to show the wine waiter how to use the cork screw. At another meal our lamb chops arrived well done instead of rare. The waiter's comment was  "I'll tell the chef". No apology or offer to replace the dish. At one "Afternoon Tea" only decaf tea was available. These are just a few of the things that should never happen on a first class ship. The [almost] Horrible: The entertainment was really pathetic. As we were on two crossings, going east in May and returning in June we had quite a few to choose from. One was a banjo concert that should not have been on any stage. Never mind the QM2. Another was the bar pianist who was roped in for a "recital". Some of the lectures were truly boring and must have been selected because the presenters could be hired for a small fee. All in all, you had the feeling that the company was trying to save money. We understand Cunard is being sold again. Could it be any worse? Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
We had traveled several times on Princess, and once on Royal Caribbean. My wife always longed to go on the QM2, and we finally decided to "try the best" so we took a July 4th New England Cruise out of New York. First the ... Read More
We had traveled several times on Princess, and once on Royal Caribbean. My wife always longed to go on the QM2, and we finally decided to "try the best" so we took a July 4th New England Cruise out of New York. First the positives. The ship was clean, nice looking and our waiter and steward were very nice. The ports we visited were good. Plenty of deck chairs, and the ship never seemed crowded like all of the others we had traveled on. Great internet services, and good activities. There were two "balls" which were both very nice and well executed. The ship is a beautiful ship and looks awesome from afar. Now the negatives. We really did expect a "step up" from the Princess vessels we had been on, that may have been our first problem. Our cabin was clean, with the exception of an 8" stain in the middle of the carpet. Overall, the food and service were disappointing. The sit-down meals were very nice, but not very exciting. We purchased the usual "soda" plan which was a complete waste, because it was virtually impossible to ever get a soda in the dining room or buffet. I had to track down waiters several times. Even the "wind steward" at our dining table let glasses go empty each night. We were lucky to get a single refill. While the dining room was okay (but somewhat bland), the buffet was the biggest disappointment. Events that come to mind are: (1) Running out of coffee at breakfast. The coffee machines twice ran out, and they were very slow to refill them. The attendants just told you to look somewhere else. (One time I did only to find the milk flasks empty for the coffee I had finally found). (2) Cream cheese for bagels seemed to be asking a bit much. I was told to go to 4 different locations to find some cream cheese. In the end, all I got was shrugged shoulders that they guessed they were out. I expected at least somebody would try to find the stuff, but instead it was up to me to explore the multiple buffet areas. (3) The quality of the food at the buffets was okay, but the selection was uninspiring. I rarely wanted to try anything, it just didn't look that good. It reminded us of a hospital cafeteria with nice looking deserts. (4) Afternoon tea, instead of being served in a nice location like on Princess, was just set out on a large table in the buffet areas. We weren't in the "upscale" cabins, so some of the dining areas were "off limits" to us. To my surprise, when I checked the menu on one of the upscale locations, I found it was identical to what we had in the dining room. I guess the room premiums just allowed you to not have to socialize with the regular crowd. Another thing that bothered us was the large amount of maintenance that was done on deck. Many times, large groups of deck chairs were roped off with yellow "caution" tape because the crew was chipping paint and painting the small boats overhead. I didn't expect to see so much maintenance. Unlike many of the other ships, there was very little communication on board. We had heard that the fireworks in Boston were to go off at 9:30 (not that there was anything printed in any material), they finally went off at 10:30, but many people had given up by then. One simple announcement, or something in the daily schedule, would have been great. Even disembarking was awkward. We never received a schedule for when we were to be out of the cabin, or when we were to leave the ship. I don't understand why it was so difficult to just communicate with the passengers. On a different note, we never expected fog to be an issue (this is clearly not the ships fault), but our forward cabin was quite noisy for two of the nights with the fog horn going off every 2 minutes. I think the next time I got a cabin it would be in the aft part of the ship if I were in an area subject to fog. The bottom line, my wife and I both felt that we had a far nicer, friendly cruise with better service on both Princess and Royal Caribbean. We never did figure out why it cost so much more on QM2, for a lesser experience. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
Had to think long and hard about this voyage. We have sailed many vessels, mostly brand new, from Crystal, Holland America, RCI, etc. (21 voyages so far). The hype of Cunard maybe is a little too much and maybe our expectations were too ... Read More
Had to think long and hard about this voyage. We have sailed many vessels, mostly brand new, from Crystal, Holland America, RCI, etc. (21 voyages so far). The hype of Cunard maybe is a little too much and maybe our expectations were too grand. Overall experience..... good looking ship, good ports, average to below standards in service, okay cabin. Was a bit worried about Cunard as this cruise was booked almost one year ago and yet we did not receive our tickets until we were only 5 days out from the cruise. Don't feel that they were on top of communication. ARRIVAL: We arrived in London and spent two wonderful SUNNY days in the UK! Our transfer pickup at Heathrow was excellent. We were the only pickup and had a private driver who escorted us to the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in London. He was an excellent host and we enjoyed the ride into the city. The hotel is a beautiful establishment and we would highly recommend the stay here. Staff was great and only a minor problem with room service delivery for breakfast; otherwise a 5+ to stay. Main problem came on the morning of embarkation. We were scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. transfer, so we went out to breakfast. When we got back at 9:30 a.m., a representative of Cunard ( from the Queen Mary 2 ) had our bags removed from our room and had left us a phone message saying that we had missed our transfer and it was our duty to catch a train to Southampton! Naturally stressed, we phoned Cunard representatives, who stated that we were still being picked up at 11:30!! The hotel had kept our bags (we thought they had taken them to the QM2!). Our bus did arrive as scheduled and we proceeded to Southampton for embarkation. Never received any word from Cunard as to the stressful miscommunication or why the QM2 rep had removed our luggage. More about London in the PORTS section. EMBARKATION: Heavy traffic to Southampton (took almost three hours due to road work and accidents). Boarded the ship in record time; no more than 10 minutes! Service well organized and very hospitable. THE SHIP: The vessel itself is a well dressed, sleek liner. Very posh look throughout the vessel (though most woods and marble areas are either plastic or Styrofoam) Lots of faux marble walls and nice furniture. The ship feels very homelike for a large vessel and is easy to navigate through all decks. A standard array of bars and lounges throughout, with nothing ordinary from other ships. The spa areas are very nice, but again, are about standard with other vessels. The Wintergarden area next to the main pool is a very nice space, with a retractable roof, to have a nice tea or freshly made juices from the juice bar. The Internet Centre (English spelling) is very comfortable, with enough cubicles for this large of a vessel. Internet service very slow (most guest though so company could make more money!) Two out of twelve days the internet was down. Did not use the casino (again standard) and the shops did not have much selection for this size of vessel. Looked nice, but no substance. The LIBRARY is a standout as an architectural body of work. Very good service and selection of books. Purser's office service was also very efficient and helpful. CABIN: Much has been said of the QV cabins. I had read all of the CC reviews so knew what to expect. Yes, it is nothing special for a ship in its class, in fact, a bit inferior. Standard balcony cabin with not much (as everyone has noted) space. Knowing that there are literally no drawers, we opted to take two dozen hangers with us. This REALLY helped as the closet space is ample if you have hangers! Bathroom has no place for cosmetics or medicines. Bed and pillows a disappointment. One very thin sheet over the bottom of the bed, so slept in the crack every night. No sheet on the bed, only a European style comforter. Bed had a covering and two nice throw pillows, but the cabin attendant only placed it on our bed twice during the entire voyage! Service to our room (Emma) was sorely lacking and I would state here that this is a major point of disappointment. Mini bar not serviced 6 out of twelve days. Room not made up (even when we were out of the room for extended periods) twice. No personality from our attendant. Turndown each night just very standard Cunard candy (we stacked them up so there were over twenty pcs. Of the same as we did not choose to eat them). Half bottle of sparkling wine on arrival was nice, but no fruit service to rooms whatsoever. When we think of the service that we have received on Crystal or Holland America, this is not acceptable. ENTERTAINMENT: We only saw shows two nights on this voyage. We had booked late seating this voyage as we wanted to have time to relax after long tour and port days. Unfortunately for us, the late seating show was at 10:45 p.m. each night. All ships that we have been on have the late seating shows early. I can only assume that this is due to being a British ship (did both encounter this last year in Med on Carnival Freedom). Now we could have made most shows, but unfortunately, our dinner service was soooooooooo slow that we rarely made it out of the dining room until 11:00 p.m. (see FOOD). The entertainers were good although the main show "Victoriana" started great and went out of control by the middle. We asked our British friends what they thought (as the show was about British music halls) and all agreed that it started nice but ended up as a very misunderstood mishmash of ideas. All of the entertainers and bands on the shop were very good. You had every kind of venue that you could expect. FOOD: Britannia Dining Room.... Again, as in a vessel of this stature, a nice looking room. Very understated, yet it was nice. It seems every ship we go on in the last few years can never get the doors open on time on the first day. Usually 15 minutes late and this ship was the same. Sat with a table of 10 persons. Service was lackluster. I guess we have been travelling too long, but what is now "White Star service" would be considered mediocre by past standards. I realize with the ever growing cruise industry it is very hard to find labor. I DO understand this; however, my expectations of this ship would have been lower than Crystal and higher than Holland America. Our service on Carnival was better! (And I know that Carnival Corp. owns Cunard). SLOW service, auctioning off food (not remembering who gets what), are unacceptable in this class. Servers used to know exactly what you drank after the first day. On this ship, they had to ask me EVERY night for beverage (which was always decaf!). Food product okay..small menu with no alternatives listed on menu (i.e. Caesar salad, steak, chicken, etc.) Now you could ask and get it, but sad that it is not on the menu. Food just warm, not hot. Most meats not at the desired temperature (chef LOVES cauliflower..on every plate and then on the buffet the next day! ) Desserts some of the worst at sea. Had really expected a higher standard here and was completely let down. Thought maybe Princess Grill or Queens Grill class may have been better, but had long discussions with passengers in those classes who were not happy. LIDO BUFFET: Food just okay, nothing different between ships. It would be nice if the breakfast could just change a bit every day. Hard to move around in this space, but understand constraints. GOLDEN LION PUB: Eat lunch HERE!! All items, particularly the Fish & Chips, were very good! Food came out HOT each time. TODD ENGLISH: Beautiful facility, good food and good service. Worth every penny and probably should have eaten there more. On a side note, Cunard should have thought about a Brit chef for this ship (Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver). Most Brits know who they are and probably would have packed this restaurant. Todd English is a great chef, but most Europeans have no clue who he is! We talked several Brits into eating here after we told them of Todd's reputation and they all enjoyed themselves. LOUNGES: Again, best fun and food at Golden Lion Pub! Good champagne at the VC Champagne bar, but poor service. Hemispheres is a good dance club, but before midnight, is filled with too many teenagers with no place to go. Queen's Room is a wonderful space for dancing and enjoying an evening. Very elegant! Also, must say here, a great English Tea every afternoon....don't miss this. ROOM SERVICE: Had a lunch from Room Service that was very good. Seems like one half the ship had RS breakfast each day as there are not enough elevators (lifts) on the vessel to handle this procedure. Each morning every elevator is jammed with servers taking RS breakfasts. PHOTO SHOP: Only bought one picture this cruise as I thought $27.50 for just one pick is a bit much! However, did want to mention the excellent service help we received as we had a battery problem with our camera. The way the cabins are designed, you cannot plug in your charger! A tip...the camera shop will charge your battery for you at no cost to you. Thanks to those who helped us! PORTS: Will go through this quickly... LONDON: Better than ever...great sunny days, excellent shows", Wicked", dinner at Gordon Ramsey (one of the best dining experiences in Europe), wonderful food markets, historical sights and don't miss the Food Hall at Harrods!! GIBRALTAR: Nice half day..take the walking tour..excellent. You will love the apes and the caves! CANNES: Went to the beach at L'Annex. Great beach facilities and some of the finest, freshest seafood you will ever eat! A highlight in a town where there isn't much to see (suggest if you don't want the beach experience, take a tour! LIVORNO: Booked a tour to Volterra and it was cancelled last minute. Had been to Florence before, so we took the Chianti tour with two hours in Florence and the rest in Greves. Had an enjoyable time.....you will like this if you are a foodie or enjoy wine as we do. ROME: Were in Rome for three days last year so we took the bus" On your own tour" into town. We had a great 6 hours to walk, shop, eat and explore. Highly recommended! MESSINA: What a disappointment!!!! Arrived on Saturday and no one on the ship bothered to tell anyone that the ENTIRE town is CLOSED up on Saturday. Take a Tour as there is NOTHING here even if it had been open. We couldn't even find a good restaurant that was open. Also, one minor complaint about the itinerary.... we arrived in three or four ports at noon. In Europe, all the shops and businesses tend to close between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., so just be aware!! CORFU: Nice tourist shopping area, okay restaurants good walking tour of fortress; otherwise take a tour! DUBROVNIK: One of the cleanest towns I have ever seen!!. You MUST walk the fortress walls to gain the scope of this jewel. Nice restaurants and shops. VENICE: Crown jewel of ports. Wonderful food shops, sights, people watching!! Okay, yes we did take a gondola tour and yes, they are expensive, but it is something you will remember forever! DISEMBARKATION: This process tends to always be painful, especially if you have a late flight. The vessels crew did a very good job with this process and it is only about 20 minutes to the airport. So, there you have it. I don't know that the hype of CUNARD made me expect more, but in cabin service and food and beverage, they have a long way to go. I don't feel that I would spend my dollars on Cunard again only because there are so many other vessels in that caliber that offer a better experience. We do thank those who made our voyage pleasurable, but do think that Cunard needs to really work on their "White Star Service"! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
CRUISE REVIEW - CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA - SOUTHAMPTON TO VENICE, AUGUST 1 - 13, 2008, Stateroom 5054 Cat A5 This was a much-anticipated cruise for me and my two children age 20 (son) and 15 (daughter). It was our 8th cruise, with previous ... Read More
CRUISE REVIEW - CUNARD QUEEN VICTORIA - SOUTHAMPTON TO VENICE, AUGUST 1 - 13, 2008, Stateroom 5054 Cat A5 This was a much-anticipated cruise for me and my two children age 20 (son) and 15 (daughter). It was our 8th cruise, with previous voyages having been onboard Holland America (old Westerdam, new Westerdam, Zuiderdam), Royal Caribbean (Enchantment, Adventure), Carnival (Destiny), and Celebrity (Galaxy). My daughter was attending a 4 week program in the UK to obtain a high school credit. Our selection of Queen Victoria depended heavily upon the following criteria: embarkation in England, timing coincided with the end of my daughter's course, and the itinerary included Florence, Rome, and Venice among other ports. In other words, we weren't specifically looking at Queen Victoria or Cunard cruises. But I will admit we were far from disappointed when we realized the ship and itinerary that best suited our criteria was the newly commissioned Queen Victoria. I still remember the tone of reverence in my son's voice when he realized I was giving serious consideration to this ship ... just the way he said, "ooooh, Cunard!" told me he hoped I would pony up the funds and get us onboard. Our enjoyment of this cruise proved to be predominantly a function of the quality and variety of the ports we visited. Sadly, I cannot say that Cunard or Queen Victoria met our expectations. These expectations, courtesy of Cunard's own intense, frequent (and, based on our experience, excessive) marketing of its "legendary White Star Service" were set quite high before we even boarded the ship. A few days following our return home at the end of the cruise, I read an extremely well-written, painfully accurate, and somewhat humorous member review of a Queen Victoria voyage. I recall the writer, a gentleman, referring to Queen Victoria as "Carnivalized". I beg to differ; Cunard would have benefited from that process had it occurred. We sailed with Carnival onboard Destiny several years ago. Our expectations of that cruise were actually rather low in terms of food and service quality but we booked it because a premium cabin was available, the itinerary was perfect, the timing was right, and the price was reasonable. Our expectations were handily exceeded by Carnival in virtually every respect. There is no question we got at least what we paid for, and considerably more than we expected in many areas.. We do not feel that way about our experience onboard Queen Victoria. Every element of their marketing, before and after you board, focuses on the concept that their service is a cut above. They never forego an opportunity to point this out. This focus on their superb service is merely wishful thinking on their part. Cunard has many inherent weaknesses in their systems and procedures (or lack thereof) that prevent them from delivering on their promise of legendary White Star service. Our experience and my observations of other passengers suggest they need significant improvement and better coordination in the delivery of their product. EMBARKATION Embarkation went fairly smoothly. We took the Cunard transfer from the Victoria coach station and it was a fairly lengthy drive (almost 3 hours) to the cruise terminal owing to heavy traffic and lane closures. There was virtually no line-up for check-in. Once invited to the check-in counter, I was asked (among other things) for the credit card I would use to pay my on-board account. I had already set up a prepaid onboard credit in a significant amount prior to my departure from home. I had received confirmation from Cunard that this amount was received and credited to our stateroom onboard account. I knew it was unlikely we would exceed the amount of this credit so I declined at check-in to provide a credit card. "But I cannot see ANY credit set up under your stateroom account", the check-in agent said. Little did she know how accurately she was defining one of Cunard's greatest administrative weaknesses. Quite simply, the left hand rarely knows what the right hand is doing. Repeatedly during our 13 day voyage it became clear that information in the Cunard database was seldom available to the departments that could benefit from access to it. In any event, I provided details to the check-in agent regarding the timing and the magnitude of the onboard credit I had set up. Eventually she sought the advice of a manager who indicated I should proceed to the Purser's Desk once onboard the ship in order to determine whether the credit was properly allocated to my stateroom. We were issued our ship's ID cards and carried on. OUR STATEROOM Our stateroom was ready when we embarked and in fact our suitcases arrived very promptly. Our stateroom attendant, Helen, introduced herself to us very soon after we crossed our threshold. Other reviewers have already commented about the lack of drawer space in the staterooms. We had a balcony stateroom and in fact ours was the largest square footage offered in this category (472 sq. ft). Throughout the stateroom it was easy to see the missed opportunities for more efficient storage. Each night table had one very small shallow drawer - they could each have had 2 or 3 larger drawers and that would have been very useful. The flatscreen television on the writing desk could easily have been wall-mounted. Inexplicably, a few feet of its electrical cord sat on the desk tangled up with our laptop cord throughout the cruise. Neither the TV nor its cord should have been allowed to take up space on this already miniscule surface. There was one each of US, British, and European electrical outlets. Since we had a supply of electrical adapters with us, we were able to take advantage of all three styles for digital camera and cell phone and laptop charging. The water closet (and I use this term quite literally in terms of the size of the facility) could have had a mirrored medicine cabinet configuration with sliding doors or glass shelving as we've seen on other ships to accommodate personal care items, toothpaste, lotions and potions, etc. Instead there was literally no room for these items except a shelf below the counter about 6" above the floor. A far from convenient location. Regardless of the class of stateroom we've booked, we have never had a smaller bathroom onboard a cruise ship. Our cabin had the advantage of an unusually large balcony which we enjoyed many times during our cruise. It was a triple cabin, and occupied by 3 people, so a third chair would have been appreciated. The balcony was more than large enough to accommodate 3 (and indeed even 4) chairs. Bear in mind that most balcony staterooms had substantially smaller balconies than ours. We found the beds to be very comfortable, with premium mattresses, linens, and pillows. Temperature control of the stateroom was easily accomplished THE SHIP We all felt that Queen Victoria was quite elegant, understated, and comfortable. We had previous Vista Class experience and so found our way around quite easily from the start. Even during the sea days, of which we experienced 3, the ship never seemed crowded. We were always able to find a table at the Lido Deck and there were always places to sit in lounges to enjoy music or a drink. I didn't go into the Library as it was almost claustrophobically small despite the spiral staircase to a second floor. The internet lounge was generously sized and well laid out but the satellite signal was among the slowest I've experienced and for at least 2 days there was no service at all. Strangely, Queen Victoria separated the charges for access within the internet lounge vs. wireless service available on the ship if one brought a wireless device. I purchased a substantial package of minutes for our cruise knowing that I would need to keep up with email. Those minutes could only be used by me personally and only in the lounge. We have never before seen this requirement on a cruise ship. Ordinarily we can purchase a package as a family and share the minutes and use them in the internet lounge OR on our own wireless laptop. During the 2 days when the internet lounge was closed (literally, locked, due to lack of signal), the wireless system performed very well. I was charged 50 cents per minute to check my email on my own laptop using the Queen Victoria wireless system. Meanwhile, I disembarked at the end of our cruise having about 100 unused minutes left in my "internet package". This makes no sense. The Cunardia displays were interesting and I spent some time reading about the role of the Queens in carrying troops during wartime. The theatre was truly beautiful, the largest and the nicest we've seen on any ship. The seating was very comfortable. The theatre was truly designed to be a theatre, not a lounge, and so there were no tables for drinks and no drinks offered prior to the performance. Not an issue for me. The private boxes were well utilized during the gala nights but otherwise were easily accessed on a first-come basis. However, the clear acrylic in front of each box somewhat distorted the view of the performance. The shops on board were not especially interesting. Their window displays were attractive but the merchandise was just not that enticing. They had their daily sidewalk sales of a variety of kitsch (inexpensive watches, the usual assortment of sparkly costume jewelry, colognes) which I really hadn't expected to see onboard Cunard. The absence of constant announcements was welcome; Celebrity does the same thing, with only a brief morning announcement and everything else to be seen on the "Cunard channel" or in the daily printed program. The lack of constant calls to Bingo and other activities means I can pretend I have nothing to do and hunker down with a book instead. The sleeping decks of the ship each feature a Launderette which is free to use. We used it on our first sea day as we arrived onboard Queen Victoria after a week spent exploring Glasgow and London and so our laundry needed attention. It was the only opportunity we had, and we were only a half dozen doors away from the launderette. After the 2nd day, the laundry room became the protected territory of a group of laundry vigilantes (I kid you not, everyone was talking about it) and they were pretty much camping in there full time. Who does that? Why pay for a cruise and live in the Launderette? The same people were in there all day every day, and fighting would break out over use of the washers, the dryers, the ironing board, just ridiculous! I don't know how these folks even managed to get their clothing dirty enough to launder in the short intervals between visits. Occasionally we'd see them going in and out of the laundry room in their Cunard robe, as presumably they'd exhausted their supply of dirty clothes and could only clean what they were already wearing. It was the weirdest thing! I kept an eye on the laundry room thinking we could do a quick load at some point but after about 4 days of keeping an eye on it, I realized the laundry vigilantes were never going to leave until the doors were locked at night. When we needed additional laundry services, we simply filled out the laundry slip in the room and let Cunard handle it. I gather the laundry vigilante situation is a common experience onboard as other reviewers have mentioned it. We never have seen this onboard other ships. SERVICE Overall, we were disappointed in this area partially because our expectations were elevated based on Cunard's constant references to their renowned White Star Service. My comment to that would be if you are going to keep drawing everyone's attention to your service, you had better deliver it in an exemplary manner. They fall short of their own marketing and consequently fell short of our expectations. They also fall short of the service experience we've enjoyed when cruising with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and Celebrity. I would have expected service to be on par with Celebrity but it wasn't on par with any of our past experiences. I spent more time at the front desk (purser's desk and excursions desk) on this cruise than on our preceding 7 cruises combined. (See, "our adventure" later in this review for details.) Our cabin steward frankly did not seem to enjoy her job at all nor was she particularly friendly. She rarely greeted us if we passed her in the hallways, kept her eyes down and never smiled. We've had great cabin stewards and poor ones and a couple in between; she was probably the worst of the bunch. She also didn't take advantage of opportunities to show us she was paying attention to our habits. Usually after one or two days at sea, a capable cabin steward will have noted the preferences of a stateroom's occupants and will organize the room accordingly. In our case, my daughter slept with an extra blanket on her bed every night of the cruise. Not once was that blanket placed on or near her bed when beds were prepared for the night. It wasn't lack of time, clearly, as our cabin steward attempted to do something artistic in arranging my pajamas each night. (This, quite frankly, I found rather weird as it's not exactly a "towel animal" - it's my personal nightwear!) We fared somewhat better in the dining room as our waiter (Zaldy) and his assistant were friendly and reasonably capable; however, our waiter's command of English was limited which sometimes hampered the process of ordering our meals. He did always manage to get it right in the end and on the one occasion when my daughter's meal arrived undercooked (gnocchi, almost raw in the center) he quickly had the meal replaced and the head waiter for our section checked soon after to make sure she was happy with the replacement. Interestingly, neither of my children were ever offered a beverage other than water in the dining room. This is unique in our experience! Usually my son would have a daiquiri (virgin daiquiri when he was younger, regular now that he's 20) and my daughter might do likewise. At the very least, my son would probably consume a diet soft drink with his meal. None was offered at any time. I have no idea why this would be the case. With the automatic gratuity applied to every order from the bar, be it soft drink, mixed drink, or wine, the bar steward could have earned some revenue from two kids who routinely order at least a daiquiri each at dinner. Front desk staff were for the most part professional and courteous and attempted to be helpful but it seemed they often were in the dark about policies and procedures. I spent a lot of time at the purser's desk on this cruise and had the opportunity to observe literally dozens and dozens of passengers raising a variety of what seemed reasonable and common issues without deriving much satisfaction from the experience. If not for my determination and persistence in resolving our issue with Cunard, I would have ended the cruise feeling equally frustrated. DINING On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being excellent and 1 being inedible, I would rate the food onboard Queen Victoria somewhere in the vicinity of 3.. I would give approximately the same ranking to food onboard Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I would give a ranking of 4 to Holland America and 4.5 to Celebrity. That said, our voyage on Cunard was more expensive than any of the aforementioned cruise lines. I would have expected more quality, variety and capability from the kitchens and particularly in a dining room that requires gentlemen to wear a jacket every single night of their cruise. We dined in the Britannia restaurant every night with only one exception, which was an evening spent in the reservations-only (surcharged) restaurant "Todd English". The food in the Britannia ranged from "OK to good" according to my son. Fair comment. Sometimes we engaged in serious contemplation of the possible presentation of a particular food. That resulted from an early dessert in which a "parfait" arrived as a pyramid-shaped jelly-like mousse. Desserts were generally not terrific; my kids took to ordering the ice cream with every dessert as a no-fail backup plan. Unlike other cruise lines we've experienced, Cunard did not mention "alternative" options in the event that no menu items appealed. Celebrity, for example, offers Caesar salad, grilled salmon or steak in addition to the menu items and this is noted on the menu on a nightly basis. If Cunard offers something similar, it was not mentioned at any time by our waiter nor was there any indication printed on the dining room menu. One evening my daughter ordered pasta from the menu, asking that mushrooms be omitted. It arrived without any discernible sauce whatsoever. As it was the only item that appealed to her at all on the evening's menu, she soldiered through about ¼ of it. If alternatives to the printed menu had been offered it would have been helpful. After the 3rd or 4th dinner in the Britannia dining room, we came to think of the meal as more of a refueling stop than "fine dining" because the food quite simply wasn't of that caliber. This was the first voyage of 8 cruises that my son was required to wear a jacket each and every night. (Cunard's "elegant casual" dress code requires jackets for the men.) My son commented that this restaurant was simply "not good enough" to require men to wear a jacket every night. He's right. We made reservations for dinner one evening at the Todd English restaurant onboard. We had visited Olives at Bellagio in Las Vegas and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal, and prior to embarkation onboard Queen Victoria had enjoyed Zuma and Gordon Ramsay in London, so we were hopeful of another taste treat. Todd English onboard Queen Victoria is decidedly a step up from the Britannia experience, but in no way a match for its land-based sister, Olives. The food was much better than anything the Britannia was serving but the service seemed impersonal, almost mechanical. We felt that the Lido restaurant did a very capable job at breakfast and in fact was probably the best organized breakfast buffet we've seen on any cruise ship. Some ships scatter the necessities for breakfast across so large an area that the pancakes are long chilled before syrup can be found. If you started at the beginning and proceeded to the end (which not every passenger did), you would systematically have assembled on your tray absolutely everything needed for breakfast including the appropriate condiments. I have never seen a more logically put together buffet. The food was generally good and the "cooked to order" omelettes, pancakes, and waffles were very tasty. Lunch was much less predictable. The sandwich station had the same boring sandwiches day in and day out. On most cruise ships I am easily satisfied with a good sandwich but these were just plain uninspired. They could have prepared them in advance; there was no advantage to having the sandwiches made to order as they lacked interesting fillings and variety and basically just kept making the same things again and again for days on end. The pasta and pizza stations were a better bet, with some customization possible. The pasta chef had fun one day with my daughter and I making a "pink sauce" out of his alfredo and arrabiata sauces and adding an array of chopped vegetables. The resulting creation, which we shared, was absolutely delicious. Generally I restricted my lunch time visit to the Lido to a salad and soup as these were fairly no-fail options. Sometimes it was tricky to find a table at lunch time but perseverance always paid off. The room service menu was probably the most limited and boring we've seen on a cruise. It went virtually unused by us. The Golden Lion Pub provided a welcome change at lunch from time to time. Generally it wasn't busy if one arrived fairly promptly at noon and the meals, although limited in variety, were delivered piping hot and were reasonably tasty. I'm a serious fish and chip lover and the Golden Lion Pub didn't disappoint in this area! It was nice to sit down and have a simple meal with my kids a couple of times during our cruise and not have to face the lines and the trays in the Lido. ENTERTAINMENT My son plans a career in live theatre production so he of course had a very high level of interest in seeing the shows and seeing the production values of these shows in such a beautiful venue as Queen Victoria's theatre. They have apparently invested considerably in absolutely first-rate equipment for sound and lighting and a great deal of it! He was very impressed by the investment made to ensure that every show could be lit to perfection. However, the cast of the production shows seems uninspired much of the time. There was no strong female singer and no strong male voice. They had 4 "decent" vocalists but no one who could really put out a powerful vocal. Usually we find that there is one particularly powerful voice for each of the male and female performers and there are usually ways to showcase those voices within the production shows. As I said to my son after the first production show, "I am having a lot of trouble connecting with the show, the performers, with any of it". I felt the shows had no real story (beginning/ middle / end), lacked energy, seemed more than a little disorganized, and the lighting was sometimes all over the place. In one instance the lights were aimed straight at the audience, forcing many people to cover their eyes. Not a smart idea. We later learned that this was a changeover cruise for the cast which had been onboard since the maiden voyage. Their contracts were finally coming to an end and their replacements embarked when we did and were frantically in rehearsal every hour of the day. That probably explains the lack of energy of the departing cast! The final production did seem more put together and the cast must have felt inspired to go out with a bang because it was a far higher energy performance than any of the preceding shows. They should have begun the cruise with an equally strong show and put the less organized, weaker shows in the middle with the powerhouse at the end. The walk-on entertainers were all musicians or vocalists. One gentleman played a wide range of instruments, had a very pleasant singing voice, and the audience responded very enthusiastically to him. His show was my favorite of the cruise. There was a female vocalist who almost managed to put the audience to sleep; many people got up and left mid-song (which I personally think is offensively rude) and she performed two shows (one too many). There wasn't enough variety in the walk-on performances; they were all vocalists and musicians, with no illusionist, comedy, magician, etc. On non-production show nights the late show was poorly attended, in fact I don't think more than 20% of the seats were occupied for most of the shows. I don't think I've been on a ship previously where the late seating of dinner had an after-dinner show. Usually the late diners see an early show, the early diners get the later show but both shows are usually finished by about 10 p.m. Our show didn't start until 10:45 p.m., and generally wrapped up about an hour later. With port arrivals at 7 and excursions at 8 a.m., that's just plain too late!! I missed at least 4 or 5 shows as a result. Walking around the ship, I heard and enjoyed some very competent pianists and a harpist who was very good. SPA The spa was truly "state of the art" and absolutely lovely. I had several excellent treatments in the spa, particularly on the sea days. My favorite treatments were the stones massage and two sessions of reflexology. I always talk with staff members about life on board the ship because both of my kids are studying for careers that will likely take them onto a cruise ship after they graduate (technical theatre production, and hotel management). By chatting with the spa staff, I learned a few things onboard Queen Victoria that were of interest. First, the staff on this ship lacks deck privileges. They are not permitted on passenger decks when they are off duty, not even to sit and have a coffee in a lounge and interact with passengers. Other ships we have sailed (Holland America, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean) definitely had staff members circulating. They are required not to drink on passenger decks, to comply with the dress code, and to act professionally as the representatives of the cruise line, but they are up there on passenger levels. I gather the restriction of deck privileges was recent and there were staff members who had come onboard when deck privileges were extended. Many were not planning to renew their contracts now that these privileges were revoked. In fact, none of the staff members with whom I spoke expected to renew their contracts on the same ship again. PORTS SOUTHAMPTON: We spent 3 days prior to embarkation enjoying London, our second visit in 3 years. We had a wonderful dinner at Gordon Ramsay's at Claridges, an even more amazing meal at Zuma (Japanese), and saw Les Miserables which is probably my all-time favorite show. My daughter and I enjoyed browsing at Camden Market; my son opted for relaxation that afternoon instead. We had beautiful weather (much nicer than folks at home were having) and our hotel, Flemings Mayfair, was terrific and beautifully located 5 minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. GIBRALTAR: We took the ship's excursion "Walking Tour of the Rock" and were carefully briefed by our guide about the Barbary Apes. They are very precocious and especially the teenagers will try and snatch anything they can, particularly food! There is a 500 pound sterling fine for feeding the apes but the apes are not fined for stealing YOUR food! However, it can get a little tricky so it's best not to rustle wrappers, reach into bags, etc. because they associate those movements/sounds with food. One young boy came out of a souvenir/snack shop with a newly-purchased ice cream bar on a stick. The wrapper was no sooner removed than an ape grabbed the ice cream bar out of the boy's hand, climbed onto a roof, and demonstrated a good working knowledge of how to thoroughly savour an ice cream bar. He licked the stick on both sides, then climbed down. Very cute, we took photos! Many of the mini-vans used for the tours had apes climbing onto and into them. The apes seemed to be particularly fond of the horn and would reach in and press and hold it for minutes at a time. It sounded like rush hour at a gridlocked intersection but it really was just the apes having fun with their own version of an orchestra. The same excursion includes a visit to the caves and this was worthwhile also. From one vantage point we were able to see the Gibraltar airport which is of interest because there is a major road running right across the runway!!! There are only a handful of take-offs and landings each day and automated arms (like at a railway crossing) have been installed to prevent movement of vehicles and pedestrians across the runway for a few minutes before, during, and after it is in use. We were fortunate to see the road closed at one point for an inbound aircraft, watched the landing, and then a few minutes later the road re-opened and traffic was transiting the runway once again. A very unusual setup, but it seems to work. CANNES: We were fortunate to be able to book the services of a fantastic and highly recommended private guide. I had read of this gentleman in numerous cruise reviews and bulletin boards, Michel of Revelation Tours, and we were not disappointed. He really hit the ground running, with wonderful commentary that brought to life the history of the area, and helped us understand and appreciate everything we were seeing. He had a very comfortable Mercedes van, soft drinks and bottled water on board, and did everything to make our day enjoyable, educational, and we really crammed a lot in! We visited Monte Carlo/Monaco, Eze (charming!), St. Paul de Vence (have to go back there some day!!), and lunch in Nice. The three of us agreed that he is our all-time best private tour guide providing superbly paced and interesting commentary. If I find myself in the south of France again, I will be in touch with Michel. FLORENCE/PISA: We booked a private tour with Rome in Limo and had requested Carlo for both Florence and Rome tours. However, their local driver Gianmarie met us at the ship at the port of Livorno. He quickly got us away from what must be the ugliest port area I've ever seen. I'm sure the town is pretty but Livorno's economy is all about shipping so anything within a mile of the pier is strictly related to that and very unattractive as Gianmarie pointed out! He was a terrific tour guide, young, personable, interesting, with lots of good information to share with us, a good sense of humor, and he kept the commentary moving so we were never bored. Gianmarie was an excellent choice of guide for the dynamics of our family. We started with a visit to Pisa and really you only need about an hour for this. It's mainly a photo opportunity and as we drove through Pisa, Gianmarie pointed out that it wasn't exactly the only "leaning tower". Pisa just doesn't have the substrate needed to keep a tower standing straight! Gianmarie had made a reservation for us at the Accademia so I finally met the famous "David" who is every bit as good-looking a man now as he was when Michelangelo discovered him! Best of all, he took us to a fantastic restaurant in Florence for lunch ... "La Posta" ... we had the most wonderful pasta, the owner looked after us personally and told us all kinds of cute stories of comical customers. My son says he would go back to Florence specifically to dine at that restaurant again. Me too. ROME: We spent 3 days exploring Rome before our last Mediterranean cruise onboard Celebrity Galaxy in August 2006. This time we elected to have a private driver and we had a specific list of places we wanted to go. Again our booking was with Rome in Limo and this time we had Marco as our driver. Marco was driving a Mercedes minivan with half of the rear seats facing backward. These were not useful for our purpose so we sat in the back row of seats which were facing forward; unfortunately that made it difficult for us to hear his commentary, which I'm sure he noticed since I needed him to repeat almost everything he said. I later learned he could easily have turned the rear-facing seats to a forward-facing position and I'm not sure why that wasn't done, considering how far back we ended up sitting in a half-full minivan. Marco did not offer a great deal of commentary; that may have been because we told him it wasn't our first visit to Rome. Having said that, he was interesting and with good English skills, and he paid attention to our comment that we would like the opportunity for a really nice lunch, and to take some interesting and different photos. Unfortunately, that second statement of preference ended up costing us $2,000 before we were even halfway into the tour. He took us first to the Colosseum as this was our number one request (we only saw the exterior on our last visit to Rome). Then he embarked on a mission to "surprise us" with hidden gems and panoramic views. Unfortunately at one such stop, a panoramic view of a large part of the city taken from the Aventine Hill area, we were out of the vehicle for about 10 minutes and returned to find items we had left inside the car, gone. The vehicle was locked, parked on the street outside a church in a quiet residential area, but the vehicle's security had been defeated, probably by a screwdriver inserted under the covering of the driver's door handle to short the electronic locking system. My camera bag (with an SLR lens, spare battery, charger, and assorted camera accessories), my daughter's bag (with a digital camera and a digital video) and our driver's jacket (with his wallet, all ID, driver's license, and credit cards) were all gone! About a $2,000 loss for our family which I have since learned is not substantial enough to merit an insurance claim so we have to write this off to experience. We spent about an hour at the police station to file a report before declaring a lunch break. Marco was very upset to have such an event occur on his shift, but we did all recover somewhat after a nice glass of wine and wonderful lunch, consumed at a restaurant he indicated was his favorite in the city. Our afternoon stop was at Vatican City, primarily to see the Sistine Chapel. Earlier I had been asked by Rome in Limo if I wanted a private guide to take us into Vatican City and I had declined because the cost was 150 euro and I didn't think my kids would be sufficiently interested in the Vatican Museum's art to warrant a detailed explanation of it. In fact, given their 'druthers they would probably elect to get through the Vatican Museum as quickly as they decently could! However, the owner of Rome in Limo was waiting for us at the entrance to Vatican City to express his condolences on the loss of our items earlier in the day.and to offer us the complementary services of one of his private guides, Catherine. She was terrific! Young, knowledgeable, interesting, funny, quick paced, kept things moving, and we benefited hugely by having her accompany us. We especially appreciated the time she spent familiarizing us with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel so that when we stepped inside (where silence is required and photography is banned) we knew what we were looking at and had a better ability to appreciate and understand the nuances. Catherine's tour and commentary was definitely a highlight of our day in Rome. We enjoyed our day in Rome and we realize that a theft can and does occur in any place in the world. We travel frequently and we bring some expensive toys (cameras) with us, and electronics are always tempting targets. We arrived in Rome already in love with the city and nothing has changed that. However, we do offer this caution: Do not assume a locked vehicle is safe even for 5 minutes. Apparently Rome in Limo requires their drivers to remain with their vehicle but in our case this requirement was ignored and really in only a very few minutes in a quiet residential area, the vehicle was emptied. I did notice in Florence/Pisa that no matter where we went or how long we were gone, anytime we glanced back at the Mercedes minivan we could see Gianmarie standing right beside the driver's door. We thought it a bit comical, actually, but we now understand exactly why he was doing this. Our driver in the South of France, Michel, did exactly the same thing at all times. Clearly they know there is a risk of a Mercedes minivan being spotted as a "private tour vehicle" with perhaps some personal effects or cameras inside. MESSINA: Our home has been under renovation for about 10 years, one room after another, and the imaginative, talented contractor with whom I've worked on all of this is originally from Sicily. I showed him our options for our day in port and he said "Go to Taormina". It was terrific advice. Taormina is beautiful! We had about a 45 minute ride in a very nice coach with a wonderful tour guide whose name I've forgotten but I could pick her out in a crowd by her voice. She had a very distinctive manner of speech, a bit slow paced and very theatrical. This served her well as it seemed to keep everyone quite engaged and listening to her commentary. We had ample time to wander around Taormina that day; sadly, it was extremely hot but she had great advice for refreshment: granita, a kind of lemon slush that is eaten with a spoon. We found a sidewalk restaurant that offered granita, enjoyed it thoroughly, and searched for it every hour of every day for the balance of the cruise, with no success. I guess we will be going back to Sicily if we get desperate enough for granita. I bought a painting from an artist in Taormina, very reasonably priced at 300 euro. The painting is very detailed and whenever I look at it, it reminds me of the beautiful views that were literally around every corner in this town. Our guide referred to Taormina as "magical" and I think that's a fair comment. CORFU: We took the ship's excursion to Acheillion Palace, a Monastery, and Corfu town. The Palace is a complete waste of time. There are a few sculptures and paintings but after FLORENCE???? No comparison. Much of the Palace appeared to be closed to the public and what was open was just not that beautiful. I found it small, sparsely furnished and with a few interesting pieces but having just come from Italy and its treasures there was little here to impress the observer. Visiting the palace necessitated a lot of driving on very narrow congested streets for no good reason. For this tour we had such a pedantic, boring tour guide that many of the passengers actually fell asleep in the bus on the way to the palace! The Monastery was situated in a beautiful area on the coast with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery. Although it wasn't all the interesting in itself, the drive to and from the Monastery was beautiful and we took some lovely photos of the ocean and beach. When we got back to Corfu town, many people (including my son) opted to go straight back to the ship, but my daughter and I stayed in town, feeling thirsty and in the mood for a snack and people-watching. We sat on the sidewalk at a restaurant for refreshment, and had delicious greek salad and moussaka and wine served very promptly and at a reasonable cost. We did a little souvenir shopping and then it was time to get back to the ship. DUBROVNIK: We did a ship's excursion primarily of the Croatian Riviera. This is a port I had under-estimated and frankly wasn't all that terribly interested in when I made the booking. However, the Croatian Riviera is stunning. Beautiful, peaceful, no big crowds, we went to Cavtat with its population of 2,000 and as soon as we were one block from the waterfront, we were enveloped in peace and serenity. I could definitely enjoy a vacation here! The excursion continued inland to a restaurant where we were served a glass of wine (choice of red or white, the white was delicious) and a small snack of local home-made break, cheese, sliced cured meat, and freshly sliced tomato. It was an extremely pretty location and well worth walking around to enjoy the scenery. From there we stopped in Dubrovnik, the old town, where we wandered around for a couple of hours, had some very tasty pizza (and a very un-tasty glass of rose wine that I couldn't drink), and then were taken back to the ship. Others who came into town without an excursion had to queue for the ship's shuttle and it was clearly pandemonium as the shuttle arrived and was set upon by many more Cunard guests than could possibly fit on the coach. We were glad to be able to take the excursion coach back to the ship and not have to content with the line-up for the shuttle as Dubrovnik was very hot the day we were in port. VENICE: Venice was the #1 reason we booked this cruise. I'd been warned a few times about a funky smell but didn't notice it. What I did notice was the beauty, the romance, the history, the water.. water ..water everywhere! It takes a few minutes to assimilate that really there are no roads. All the usual types of transportation - limos, taxis, buses - are available, but all of it involves water! We did the ship's excursion of the Doges Palace and St. Mark's, both of which were interesting although I suspect my kids would have happily done without both. From there we proceeded to the gondola and were seated with a family of 3 and off we went! There was much jockeying for position as initially the gondola embarkation area was very congested; the canals were almost equally busy with the gondolas proceeding in a "nose to tail trailride" formation for the entire length of the trip. Meanwhile, the gondoliers shouted and laughed back and forth between themselves in Italian (probably commenting on their hapless guests who were taking pictures of every brick along the way) but it was nonetheless interesting and I wouldn't have wanted to forego the experience. (Possibly the attractiveness of the gondoliers is at least partly responsible for this.) Later we set off on our own to buy some tourist tat (sorry, couldn't help it!) including a beautiful Venetian mask for 25 euro (seemed very reasonable). We sat down at a sidewalk restaurant for wine and snacks and people-watching. However, we couldn't stay in town too late because it was "packing night" (that very dreaded event) and we had a great deal of luggage to sort. The following morning we again stepped of the ship to spend some time sight-seeing in Venice. I had it in mind that we would go to Murano and perhaps buy a piece of glass. Finding ourselves again in St. Marks Square, we were almost immediately approached by a gentleman who indicated that we could have a free water taxi ride to Murano if we would visit a specific glass factory. I didn't have any problem with this, asked how long it would take, and we hopped into the taxi. This gave us an interesting ride and it was about 20 minutes to Murano as I recall. We were greeted as we stepped off the boat by one of the representatives of the factory, welcomed, told we could feel free to take pictures of the demonstration we would see, and in we went. The demonstration was a glass master first blowing a glass vase and then sculpting a glass horse by pulling on a ball of molten glass to create a head, body, legs, and tail. It was amazing, just a few pulls with something that looked like pliers and there was a horse! "Master" is definitely the word! The tour of the showroom (where photos were not allowed) was equally amazing; we had lots of questions and our factory representative explained the various processes used to create such intricate, amazing glass pieces of art. Some were absolutely huge, others very small, some of the chandeliers were indescribable, and it was definitely a very worthwhile morning. There was no chance I'd leave without purchasing something, the only problem was narrowing down the choice, but in the end we arranged a piece that will be shipped. It's a crystal branch with 3 birds on it (we are a family of 3) and we each chose a color for "our" bird. It will be a beautiful and a wonderful memory of our time in Venice when it arrives in about six weeks' time. OVERALL There were some things we really enjoyed about this cruise and I would be remiss if I didn't highlight them. First, it was the dressiest cruise we've experienced. The dress code was respected by 99% of the passengers each and every night. Even on the 'elegant casual' nights some of the ladies really were dressed, leading my daughter to question whether they might turn up in wedding gowns on the formal nights. We saw gentlemen being turned away from the Britannia restaurant because of the lack of a jacket or tie. I've always disliked seeing people in the dining room on a formal night who refuse to even try to conform to the evening dress code. This didn't happen on Queen Victoria. We requested a "small table" but were seated at a table for 6 with a delightful couple (Pam & Nick) from the south of England. We never asked them but it's possible they had requested a table for two. There weren't very many such tables in the Britannia and I know that many passengers who requested a table for two did not have that request accommodated. We have a lovely photograph taken of the 5 of us at dinner to remind us how much we enjoyed their company. Our past experiences with large tables were not always favorable, with table companions who dined at the Lido on all the formal nights, leaving us in the awkward position of being only 3 at a large table half of the time. This time our dining companions attended dinner every as we did. (excepting our one meal at Todd English). They were delightful and we had some great conversations, sometimes lingering at the table well after coffee was finished. I enjoyed the music broadcast over the ship each time we sailed from a port but I wish it had been themed a little more closely for some of the ports (sometimes I really couldn't understand the choice of songs) and it was a little too loud. Anyone out on deck or on their balcony to enjoy the departure would be hard-pressed to have a conversation. At one port there was a bit of a whistle competition between our ship and Ocean Village. Each ship blasted away numerous times with Queen Victoria the clear and impressive winner. The half bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin for sail-away was much enjoyed but I think a small basket of fruit would also have been welcomed; it is something we've grown accustomed to in our cruises with Holland America, it costs the ship very little, and it's a nice welcoming touch. I believe Queen Victoria was in most of the ports of this itinerary for the first time. Our tour guides in each port commented on how beautiful the ship is, and this is true. The Queen Victoria looks stately and handsome in port, very much the ocean liner, and the red stripe at the water line and dark livery of the ship's hull really set her apart from all those white (almost plastic-looking) cruise ships that shared the port facilities with us during our itinerary. OUR ADVENTURE Encoded into my DNA is a requirement for dotting I's and crossing t's. I am a born organizer as anyone who knows me will attest. This means that as soon as we book a trip, I open a "trip file" and the amassing of information begins. I surf the internet, clip articles, read reviews, look at travel forums, and the process of trip planning begins. What do we need to see and do, where should we eat, what private drivers do we want to book and where should they take us, what excursions are the best ones to take ... all of this become part of a fine, FAT file that expands steadily for months before departure! By the time we leave home to embark on our trip, the bookings made as a result of all of this research are synthesized into a spreadsheet format which provides "at a glance" information about the commitments, reservations and plans we've made. All this planning actually makes the trips more relaxing as it is easy to keep track of the day's plan by consulting this chart. This cruise had a port-intensive itinerary and that is why we chose it. There were a lot of ports, and they were wonderful ports, most of which we had not previously seen. Thus, we wanted to ensure we saw everything we could. I never quite understand the people for whom a cruise is "just a boat ride" and they either don't get off the ship when it's in port, or they are back on again by lunch time. I'm usually among the first off and last to return! My son jokes that they can throw a rope over the side so I can swing back on - it has never come to that but I am certainly going to eat in Rome when I'm in Rome!! In my view, there is no ship so wonderful that it can eclipse the treasures and culture of the ports it visits. 5 months before we sailed I had booked all of our shore plans with the exception of Venice. For 3 ports I booked private drivers. For 4 ports I booked a ship's excursion because I couldn't justify the cost of hiring a driver everywhere and yet I don't just want to walk off the ship and poke about a few shops before re-boarding. The most important factor in our decision to book Queen Victoria was the opportunity to spend the last 2 days of the cruise in Venice. It was therefore important to us to have a good plan for exploring this fantastic city, both on our day of arrival and the following day after sleeping onboard the ship in port. Queen Victoria was arriving in Venice at noon on Aug 12 and we would not disembark until Aug 13 so that would give us about 6 hours in the city both days. I had to keep some time available the evening of Aug 12 for packing as luggage would be picked up by midnight, as always happens on cruises. I booked a shore excursion for the afternoon of August 12, which was "walking tour of St. Mark's and Doges Palace and gondola ride", leaving several hours free afterwards for wandering and exploring. For August 13, what we needed was a "tour/transfer" commonly offered by ships on the disembarkation day. What that accomplishes is safe storage and transportation of your luggage to the airport while the day can be spent touring and then reuniting with the luggage and the end of the day in order to fly home. Cunard was offering 3 tour/transfers for Venice on their website. One was a visit to the islands of Murano and Burano, one was the Villas of Brenta, and the other one was of no interest and consequently I cannot recall the description. None of Cunard's shore excursions could be booked online. I haven't encountered this with any previous cruise; normally they can be booked online and paid with a credit card and confirmed many months prior to departure. Cunard does not offer an on-line booking facility, so the shore excursions were booked directly with Cunard by my travel agent. For reasons that were not explained, when we booked the other 4 shore excursions, Cunard had not yet priced the Venice tour/transfers Sheila was told to call back in two months' time at which time Cunard would be able to finalize the arrangements. She did so in March and was told to call back in May. When she called in May, she was told that the tour/transfers for disembarkation day in Venice could only be booked at the excursions desk after I came onboard. I'll admit I felt this was a loose end and wasn't entirely comfortable with it, given that on the strength of Cunard's tour/transfer offerings I had booked an evening flight out of Venice on August 13 Sheila sent me copies of the tour/transfer options, which I put in my cruise trip file and brought with me. My first day onboard the ship, I went to the excursions desk and picked up the leaflet of tours because the line was absolutely enormous. The leaflet made no mention of August 13. The following day, a sea day, I went back and took my place in line. When it was my turn to be served, I explained that I wanted to book a tour/transfer for August 13. I was told that these tours had not yet been uploaded to the computer and they were therefore unable to make a booking. They expected to see the tours within 48 hours and suggested I come back in 2 days' time. I went back two days later, after we sailed from Gibraltar. Then I was told that the tours were in the computer still BUT that all staterooms would be receiving printed information about August 13 within the next day or two and I could make my selection when that occurred. The next day we had a leaflet for "disembarkation" delivered to our stateroom. It offered 4 options. No transfer arrangements at all. Transfer to the airport. Transfer to the rail station. Transfer to a list of hotels. None of these were tour/transfers and I was horrified! I certainly didn't want to be transferred to the Venice airport at 9 in the morning and spent the day there waiting for an evening flight. Nor did I want to choose "no transfer arrangements" and be responsible for figuring out how to get our luggage from the ship to the airport. It certainly couldn't be pulled around with us for a day. Back to the excursions desk I went, to wait in the line again. It was another long line. This time I brought with me the hard copies provided by Cunard of the tour/transfers they were offering in Venice. The excursions desk personnel took a look at this and said they had NO information about these tours and that I should speak with the purser's desk. At the purser's desk I spoke with Nel. I showed her the hard copies of the two tours/transfers in which we had an interest. I told her that the Excursion Desk had no knowledge of these and that the options being offered for transfers on August 13 were not acceptable to us due to our booking of an evening flight based on the offerings I held in my hand. I explained that as recently as late May my agent was told by Cunard's office that we would be able to book a tour/transfer once we were onboard. Nel noted that these were clearly produced by Cunard and said she would show them to the tour manager who was presently out of the office. She committed that she would get back to me later in the day to let me know what arrangements could be made. She called our stateroom several hours later to advise that these tour/transfers would not be offered at all on this sailing. That left me in a quandary! How were we to get off the ship with our 7 pieces of luggage, spend the day in Venice, and get ourselves and the luggage to the airport at the end of the day for our flight? Where would the luggage be stored? How would it get physically off the ship? Suddenly it seemed I was to handle a logistical issue with no assistance when Cunard's office had been assuring us for months that a tour/transfer would take care of everything! I tried seeking information online but the ship's internet service was so slow that it literally took 5 minutes for the google search page to load. At that rate, I was never going to find a private arrangement. I emailed my travel agent who was well aware of what Cunard had promised, asking her to contact Cunard and see if they could assist. She then forwarded to me the reply she received from Cunard, essentially that they were very sorry to hear of our situation but that they were not in a position to handle what had become an on-board matter and that we should pursue it onboard. In a binder in our stateroom there was a supply of stationery including some little note cards (size of post cards) for comments and concerns regarding "White Star Service". There wasn't much space but the card did indicate it was for bringing to Cunard's attention anything that would make our cruise more enjoyable. With only a few lines to work with, it wasn't easy to outline our situation, but I did my best and deposited the card at the front desk. The pre-printed small text on the card indicated that these White Star Comment cards were delivered directly to the hotel manager. Within hours, I received a response from the hotel manager which basically confirmed receipt of my White Star Comment Card, thanked me for bringing my concern to her attention, acknowledged the sharing of my comments with the relevant departments, confirmed that combined tour/transfers would not be offered in Venice, and wished me an enjoyable cruise. A 3 sentence response that offered absolutely nothing. I spent a few hours thinking about this. If Cunard had never offered tour/transfers, I would have organized this privately as I did with 3 other ports. I would have done that with the luxury of time and high speed internet. Now I had no time to work with, the slowest internet in the world, and something we had verified again and again and again with Cunard was simply pulled off the table. Yet on the strength of their assurances, I made flight arrangements enabling us to enjoy Venice for as long as possible. Was I supposed to be happy at the prospect of enjoying the hospitality of the Venice Airport instead? NO!!!! The same binder that contained the stationery held all manner of ship information, room service menu, the usual details of shipboard life. The front page was a 12 point statement of "White Star Service". I had read this upon embarkation and thought it a rather lofty goal but nice to see upfront what the ship expected from its personnel. I re-read the points of White Star Service, took out a full sized sheet of Cunard stationery and wrote to the hotel manager. I began by saying 'Point #12 of the White Star Service program, which is detailed in the binder in every stateroom onboard, states "We never say no - we always offer alternatives". I am writing to you today to ask what alternatives you are prepared to offer my family". I then outlined our situation more comprehensively and chronologically, starting with the phone calls between my travel agent and Cunard, the hard copies of the tour/transfers for August 13 that I had brought on board and surrendered to Nel at the purser's desk, and finally the booking of an evening flight out of Venice on the strength of Cunard's offer of tour/transfers which offer now appeared to be nothing more than smoke. I clearly indicated that I understood the tour/transfer option was gone. So be it. What I was now asking from this premium cruise line with the vaunted and legendary White Star Service was standard fare for any 3* hotel to offer a departing guest. Specifically, I requested the following: safe storage of our luggage, the ability to leave and explore the city, return and be reunited with our luggage, and a transfer to the airport at the end of the day. Literally any hotel will do this. A cruise ship is just a floating hotel and what I was requesting was absolutely within their capability to do. I hand-delivered my letter to the purser's desk and it was addressed by name to the hotel manager. I waited for a response. For four days. On the fourth day we were getting perilously close to Venice and we still had no disembarkation plan. Back again to the purser's desk I went, realizing that at this point I had probably invested something like 9 or 10 hours in lining up over this one issue, more hours spent in line in one cruise than in all of my previous 7 cruises combined. Fortunately, the receptionist available when it was my turn was Nel, and she remembered me and my hard copies of the tour/transfer options. I updated her quickly with respect to my correspondence and indicated I was not satisfied with silence. When a customer has a valid concern - and I had documented mine already - a response is required. This is a simple Customer Service 101 protocol. The tone of my letter was polite and my request was reasonable. Any mid range hotel and certainly every cruise ship we've sailed would cheerfully accommodate the same request. The failure by the hotel manager to respond (or even to delegate to someone else, for response) was rude and unreasonable. Frankly I was by this time quite fed up with the legendary White Star Service which is a lovely phrase that means absolutely nothing tangible on board Queen Victoria. I asked Nel if she could assist me in obtaining an appointment with the Hotel Manager. I also indicated that I knew there were many passengers onboard the ship with an issue similar to ours, because I had overheard similar conversations at the purser's desk each time I lined up to address this and I also overheard conversations on the subject in the "relaxation room" of the Spa. The Cunard customers discussing the Venice disembarkation and lack of arrangements for passengers with late flights were certainly not "relaxing" but in fact were quite hot under the collars of their spa robes. Nel returned after a few minutes to indicate that the Tour Manager would meet with me. He introduced himself and suggested we sit comfortably in the lobby area near the purser's desk. He was aware of my letter and asked me to recount the situation chronologically, which I proceeded to do. I made my request once again for safe storage of our luggage, the opportunity to explore Venice, and transfer at the end of the afternoon to the Venice airport. In conclusion, I reminded him that even the most moderately priced hotel would cheerfully make such an arrangement for a departing guest and I expected nothing less from the premium cruise line that Cunard claims to be. He thanked me for my time and indicated he would see what could be done and would respond to me by the end of the day. By late afternoon, I had a message from Tanya who I believe is the purser, indicating that she would call back and provide disembarkation details. She did call our stateroom again about an hour later and set out for me the plan for August 13 for our family. Essentially, they agreed to everything I had requested. We were given Gold #1 luggage tags and told to put our luggage in the hallway the night before disembarkation as is customary. It would be taken to the airport the following morning and held in a safe area for us to claim in the afternoon prior to checking-in for our flight home. Our hand baggage could be brought on the morning of August 13 to the Connexions lounge where it would be safely stored and we would be given receipts for it. We were to be provided with visitor cards so that we could re-board the ship on August 13. (Ordinarily on disembarkation day the passenger cards are cancelled in the system, making it impossible to re-board at a later time.) We were told that we would be accommodated for our transfer to Venice Airport at 3:30 p.m. with the group of passengers who were taking the "Cunard Charter Flight to Gatwick". I was also specifically asked not to mention these arrangements to any other passenger onboard the ship because an exception was being made for us and could not be offered to anyone else. We complied with this request. However, I know for a fact that there were many other passengers in a situation similar to ours who should have been properly accommodated. When we arrived at the Venice Airport later in the day, we met people who had literally spent their entire day at the airport following an early morning transfer from Queen Victoria. They had not expected this and, like us, had booked a late flight hoping to enjoy Venice for as long as possible. They were not happy campers and I suspect gave their travel agent an earful to relay to Cunard upon their return home. I suspect the biggest difference between our fate and theirs on August 13 in Venice was my persistence. Another contributing factor was the fact that I remained polite and reasonable in my request for "alternatives". It was also beneficial in supporting my contention that Cunard got us into this mess and Cunard should get us out of this mess, that I had brought with me hard copies of the offered tour/transfer excursions. This made it difficult indeed for Cunard to deny having offered such arrangements to us, and explained our willingness to rely on these plans when making our air arrangements to return home. Would I cruise with Cunard again? Not likely. This cruise was enjoyed primarily because of the quality of the ports (which has nothing to do with Cunard). Our cruise experience was also enhanced by those individuals (our dining room waiter, various spa personnel, Nel at the purser's desk, the tour manager, and the purser who provided a solution to our disembarkation issue) who, in an otherwise nondescript service environment, provided caring, quality service. Many departments onboard a cruise ship report to the hotel manager. True leadership in service excellence can only come from the top down, and my personal experience in service with the hotel manager gave Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
We saw the Cunard Mediterranean memories cruise after returning from two weeks on P&O Ventura. The Queen Elizabeth sounded just what we wanted. The itinerary statred in Southapmton but flew us back from Rome to Heathrow. Any ... Read More
We saw the Cunard Mediterranean memories cruise after returning from two weeks on P&O Ventura. The Queen Elizabeth sounded just what we wanted. The itinerary statred in Southapmton but flew us back from Rome to Heathrow. Any transfers as you might ask? No. This was the main fault with this holiday. I contacted Iglu and Cunard and despite assurances that there were arrangements... there weren't forcing us to make our own arrangements. Without lovely helpful family in Surrey, it would have been most inconvenient. The ship is beuatiful. Classy and fully meets the expectations of the Cunard reputation. Food good, staff mostly friendly. We soon found out thought that the cruise was intended for probably the older cruiser and certyainly someone who felt that ballroom dancing each night made up for the lack of a good show. The entretainment left a lot to be desired, one artist mainly, singer etc doing a 40 minute spot then that was it! Some nights the ships dancers and singers but little in the way of variety. We have been used on Carnival and P & O to leaving one show and going off to see another. Ballroom dancing isnt a suitable alternative. We made our own arrangements for excursions as the ones offered seemed expensive compared to what was on offer at the port. Drinks expensive as was the internet A few too many formal nights for me. 5 nights out of 9 in my dinner suit is over the top for me. It wasnt a bad cruise, just not for us. I need entertaining a bit more than Cunard seem to want to do Defintaely for the 70+ cruiser who likes to dress up and Waltz Oh and this is the last time I book a cruise or any other holiday in advance. Sick of finding people who have paid £300 less for the same holiday by booking late!!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
We are a British couple who have been living in Spain for 12 years. We cruise every January mainly RCCL; HAL Celebrity and last year Carnival. Embarkation was an absolute nightmare, worst ever. Don't know what happened but we ... Read More
We are a British couple who have been living in Spain for 12 years. We cruise every January mainly RCCL; HAL Celebrity and last year Carnival. Embarkation was an absolute nightmare, worst ever. Don't know what happened but we arrived by taxi to find a line which seemed to go on for miles. We were stood in hot sun and although they did come round with water at one stage it was not very pleasant. Arrived in the Grand Lobby (?) where a few crew were hanging around although they did not offer help unless asked. The stateroom was fine although not as good as most other ships we have sailed on. The smallest dresser and bathroom ever. The shower was not adequate, just a trickle. The day pillows were the sort of quality to be found on sale in a market. The bedcover had a stain and when I pointed it out to the cabin steward she said it was a chemical stain! I would say the cabin service was only adequate. Her understanding of English was minimal and when I left a note asking for certain drinks to be placed in the fridge it took two days. The bathrobe took 48 hours to appear. One day the plug in the bathroom sink disappeared and it took a couple of hours to get one. However the room was clean despite the niggles. We had an in hull stateroom and I loved it despite reservations, very private and windfree. Would have been better if we could have seen the sea but you could see it from the bed. We ate in the Britannia restaurant. A very elegant room. We changed tables after 2 nights as the table was badly placed next to a waiter service area. Our chairs were constantly being shoved and it was alarming to see a large stack of plates whizzing over our heads. The service was better at this table than the second one. Again we had the language problem and we had to almost plead for the wine waiter to come for our order, he did not appear to know anything about wine. We did drink less as the wine always arrived late. The waiters were very sullen and seemed unhappy as if they resented the work. The food was good. Portions were strange, some evenings very small and others overwhelming. Breakfast was not very good quality and boring. Service was very slow. We had room service one day which arrived promptly and was hot. Overall we did like the ship. Once we found our way around there were so many places to relax. The library is excellent and the staff pleasant. I did enjoy wandering around the corridors with displays of old photos and history of Cunard. My favorite bars were the Commodore Lounge and the Chart room. The ship never felt crowded and the scramble for loungers was better than other ships. Worse of the public areas was the space taken over for photos and shopping stalls, tacky "art" etc....very Carnivalesque! I enjoyed the range of activities and shows were excellent. We only booked one shore excursion from the ship, other times we took taxis. There always seemed to be a lot of maintenance going on around the ship, hot tubs taped off and late evening most of the outer decks were also close off for cleaning, making it impossible to have a stroll in the balmy air before retiring Would we sail on her again? not sure, maybe a transatlantic. The money we paid we could have had a suite on other lines and certainly better service. We did not find out what White Star service is. The passengers we met were outstanding in their friendliness, pity about the crew! Read Less
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