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Sail Date: March 2008
This was a surprising good cruise. It was only a four night cruise and the destination was Princess Cruises' private beach resort in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Queen Mary 2 tends to do voyages of six days or more and so this would ... Read More
This was a surprising good cruise. It was only a four night cruise and the destination was Princess Cruises' private beach resort in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Queen Mary 2 tends to do voyages of six days or more and so this would mean a break in her stride. Also, the ship has a sophisticated, cultured atmosphere. A day at the beach is not what she usually does. Nonetheless, QM2 put in a top-notch performance. It was immediately apparent on joining the ship that this cruise would be different than the three Caribbean cruises that I had done on QM2 during the course of the winter. On those ten day cruises, the majority of the passengers were British even though the ship had sailed round trip out of Brooklyn. In addition, they tended to be an older crowd, fifty-five and above with only a few young couples. On this cruise, the majority of the passengers were Americans and there were many young families with children. However, while this caused a slight difference in atmosphere, these passengers, like their predecessors, soon became captivated by the ship. The first thing that people noticed was that there is something to all this talk about QM2 being an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship. Because the ship is designed to cross the Atlantic in less than six days, she is both fast and capable of handling rough weather. On this voyage, she employed her speed so that by the morning of the first day she was off the coast of Virginia, well away from the cold of New York, and by the morning of the second day, in the Bahamas. Similarly, QM2 showed her seaworthiness by easily handling a storm that she encountered the first night. There was a slight motion but the dining rooms were full and the passengers were out and about at the casino and the shows. As noted above, QM2 was designed to do transatlantic crossings and during the summer months that is what she primarily does. Consequently, the ship and her crew are very accustomed to sea days. There is a wide variety of facilities and amenities including what is said to be the largest spa afloat, an indoor pool, a golf simulator, and a fitness center. However, what is more impressive is the enrichment program. This included lectures by Dr. Francisco Diego, whose enthusiasm for his subject caused even people with no particular interest in astronomy to come to his talks and often witty but thought provoking discussions by intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey. Upon arriving in Princess Cays, the ship's catering department carried food and supplies down to the ship's tenders and then over to the permanent barbecue facilities on the island. While they were preparing for lunch, the passengers were shuttling ashore on the tenders. All of this went smoothly with little waiting. The island itself is clean and well maintained. There is a large expanse of sandy beach with numerous deck chairs for sun bathing, cabanas, areas for swimming and for snorkeling. In back of the beach are a number of structures, most of which have a roof but no walls so as to let in the breeze and to allow a better view. These included bars, the aforementioned barbecue/buffet buildings, shops selling local crafts and offering hair-braiding. In addition, there were basketball and volleyball courts, a nature trail, and various water toys for rent including water bikes, rafts, and boats. The temperature was in the low 80s and the sun shined throughout the day. While most of the passengers went ashore, some stayed on board and some went ashore only for the morning or the afternoon. Even though a large number of chefs and catering staff were needed ashore, most of the restaurants on the ship remained open without a diminution in quality of the food or service. The facilities such as the spa and the fitness center also remained open. By late afternoon, the ship had embarked its passengers, the catering crew and their equipment and was heading back at high speed to New York. In the evening, there was a semi-formal dinner and a full program of entertainment. This included performances by comedian Steve Shaffer, a movie and a "Buccaneer Ball" in the ship's grand ballroom. Several passengers came in costume but most came to watch and to dance. Of course, the bars and the casino were in full swing. The next day was Easter. Chocolate rabbits, ice sculptures and Easter eggs appeared. In addition to the normal entertainment program, there were services conducted by Catholic and Protestant clergy as well as an interdenominational service led by Commodore Bernard Warner. Disembarkation in Brooklyn ran very smoothly. In the end, people uniformly said that they hoped to return to the ship someday. Along the same lines, on the night before reaching New York after the entertainment program had ended there were numerous people walking around the public rooms with cameras or just looking so as to prolong the voyage. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Much has been said recently about this new Cunarder and I have been in general, dismayed by the negative reviews she has garnered since entering service late last year. Even before she had her first cruise the naysayers were condemning her ... Read More
Much has been said recently about this new Cunarder and I have been in general, dismayed by the negative reviews she has garnered since entering service late last year. Even before she had her first cruise the naysayers were condemning her shape and the quality and styling of her fitout, mostly before seeing her let alone stepping foot on her. Interestingly enough the same complaints circulated about the Queen Mary 2 before her launch and previously the now much lauded QE2 had horrified travelers in the 60s by her now perceived iconic profile. Both ships are now regarded as icons and woebetide anyone who criticizes either ship. The recent negative reviews of the QV on this forum have made me wonder if the writers and I had been on the same ship. After spending several sectors on her during her recent Maiden World Cruise I think I had enough time to explore her and all her services without coming to any hasty decisions. I personally, was thrilled with her, the fitout is superb and the experience was exceptional, the crew efficient and from all accounts happy and the Captain gracious and very sociable. This has made me wonder...who would write reviews, unless you had an axe to grind or a particular complaint to make why would you bother? I figured therefore that its about time that those many of us who have enjoyed these ships should get out our pens and warm up our mice and start having our own say and try and redress the balance..... so here goes...... Background, I am a New Zealander in my late 40s and a Cunard Platinum Traveller. I have previously travelled with groups of friends and family ranging from 8 to 12 people. This was my first and longest cruise travelling solo and I embarked in Singapore and travelled through to Southampton. Comparing the Ships To compare the QE2 and the Queen Victoria is like comparing an old grey mare to a young filly. The mare has been around for a long time and you are very fond of her, she has a solid pedigree and everyone forgives her for her laterday gammy leg because of her years of faithful service. Her colors are faded her mane is tatty and shes tired and likely to refuse the odd jump. The filly on the other hand is fresh and chomping at the bit to prove herself. Everyone who sees her makes comparisons to her predecessors but she's her own master and is keen on showing her own personality even if during her first few races she faulters and stumbles she will, with experience prove her worth and show her detractors wrong. The Fitout The decorators charged with the design should be commended for the way in which they executed her decoration. It was a pleasure to be in each space, you only have to see pictures of her interior to know what I mean , the flow from one room to another was smooth and well executed. As mentioned previously the commodore club is a great space, much improved on since the QM2 with windows that reach down to the floor making great viewing when coming in or leaving port. Cafe Carinthia made great coffees which were about $US2 per cup, but the muffins and cakes were free. Lunch here was also very pleasant and on the one rough day on our trip the cafe was packed as it was a comfortable place to sit and watch the waves go past. Much has been said about the theatre, so I cant add anything here other than to say it is a fantastic space and everything you have read about it is correct. My other favorite room on board was the lobby. There was live classic music played here most days and it was a great place to sit and people watch, on port days they had local groups play in this area and it was a great welcome home after a day on land. The ship also held Kitchen tours, there were several each sector and I went on it a couple of times. Each time I went on it was different and at different times so you saw the kitchens from one extreme to another, from been sparkling and serenely quiet to bustling and full of chefs. Ask the purser to put your name on the list and they will ring you when they are organizing the tour. The only downside to the trip was some of the other passengers. There seemed to be an element on board that appeared to be out to make sure that neither they or anyone trapped into buying into their unhappiness enjoyed themselves or the ship. As I said to one particular passenger after an encounter with them, I had paid far too much money to be on the ship to be grumpy and neither should they. Accommodations Travelling solo, I was forced into paying the dreaded single supplement which amounted to 175%, however with the various discounts I received, early bird booking, previous passenger, world club and booking on a previous cruise etc, I was able to make a considerable saving, (about 50%) I travelled in an inside d7 category cabin on the 4th level. It was great, beautifully fitted with muted colors and the bed one of the best I have have slept in on a ship. I had no problems with the storage in the cabin, and infact had an empty drawer which was often offered for rent and became a running joke amongst the people I socialized with onboard.. For one person,there was plenty of room and I would have no problems booking the same cabin again in the future. The shower seemed to be a normal size shower to me and the bathroom although compact was perfectly adequate. Travelling Solo I was a little hesitant about travelling solo and was concerned that this may have hampered my enjoyment of the trip.I was led to believe that they sat all solo travellers together on the one table however this was not the case and solos are just fitted into other tables depending on numbers. Fortunately the Maitre D, Jean Paul suggested I might like to dine at a different table each night until I found one I was happy with and so each night I would arrive a little later and he would sit me accordingly. This worked very well and it was only a couple of nights before I found a great table and was happy to stay put. During the cruise I met a number of people who had spare seats at their tables and I was able to join them for a meal. It was very easy to meet like minded people on the ship and I wouldn't hesitate to travel solo again and in fact am looking forward to it. (2010 at this stage) Excursions Once again as I was travelling solo, I took mainly shipboard excursions. Fortunately the crew in the Travel Office on the ship were helpful and very knowledgeable of their product. I found the tours to be good value for money and the overnight excursions of which I took one (Safaga to Luxor, Egypt) were really well organized and in fact a lot of fun. I noticed that they seemed to fill the buses about 50% capacity. This meant that everyone who wanted one, got a window seat which was very much appreciated as there wasn't a lot of pushing and shoving to get on to get the most desired seats. There was a number of times when tours arrived back late at the ship and of course the ship waited. There were several passengers left behind during the last two sectors of the world cruise who had toured on their own and arrived back too late. I am sure a few more were grateful that our ship tour buses had been late and they didn't have their own names added to the hall of infamy! I particularly enjoyed the several excursions that included lunch and/or dinner, you could always guarantee you would be in for a treat, our stops in India were good examples of this, Chennai, Cochin and Mumbai. A special mention I feel its important to comment on the recent review which mentioned an incident where a single passenger was put off the ship in Hong Kong for one reason or another, I normally wouldn't do so but it has left an incorrect impression of the incident which I feel deserves redressing. Yes, the charge was Indecent Behavior, and its unnecessary to go further into the details in this forum however I think the Captain dealt with it in an entirely professional and discrete way. A number of rumors circulated around the ship after the incident, however contrary to one particular rumor the fact of the matter is that the incident was proven, admitted and witnessed by a third party. I commend Captain Rynd for dealing with it in the manner he did, it must have been a very difficult decision to make and one I am sure one he did not do lightly considering the ramifications on all effected. To make further comment on the circumstances in a public forum without the full facts being disclosed is unfair to all parties concerned In Summary If you are considering a cruise on the new Queen Victoria, ignore what you read one way or another and go and find out for yourself. Travelling is what we make it and if you go with an open mind and no preconceived notions of what to expect you will gain an terrific experience and memories for years to come. LONG LIVE THE QUEENS (all 3 of them) Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
I have just returned from a superb 17 day voyage on the Queen Mary 2 with my husband. The Spring Adventure left Southampton, after 5 days at sea arriving in New York it then became The Memorial Day Getaway, which left New York, visited ... Read More
I have just returned from a superb 17 day voyage on the Queen Mary 2 with my husband. The Spring Adventure left Southampton, after 5 days at sea arriving in New York it then became The Memorial Day Getaway, which left New York, visited Halifax Nova Scotia, Boston then returned to New York 5 days later for the voyage back to Southampton. We arrived at the port in Southampton independently after leaving our car in a nearby car park. We arrived a little after our allocated time and found a large queue but there were plenty of check in desks so it moved pretty quickly, we were onboard in about three quarters of an hour. As you enter the ship's grand lobby there is definitely the wow factor. Members of the ships crew greet you as does the sound of the harp. On arrival at our inside stateroom we were greeted by a bottle of wine chilling in ice. The room was very nice and spotlessly clean, the bathroom slightly bigger than any we have encountered before on cruise ships. There are plenty of hangers for a 17 night stay. We also found is useful to have a fridge in the room. The only gripe about the room is the position of the sockets they are too low to plug in large chargers for phones etc. without an adapter. The cabin stewardess Maribeth was an angel everything was always perfect and she was so happy. Our luggage arrived as we were checking out the room. We set off to explore the rest of the ship and were not disappointed at what we found. It does take a few days to remember where everything is though. There are a few places to hide away with a good book and views of the ocean. With the size of the ship and the few passenger is carries it never seems crowded. In the Britannia Restaurant we chose to be seated at a table for six and luckily we all got on fine. The food was great, always plenty of choice and even I managed to find something I enjoyed every day. The service in here was never very swift, but I think more down to the number of tables the waiters had to serve than to the waiters themselves. We did learn that the smaller tables always get served first and the bigger ones last. Due to the time factor we only ate in here at night. For breakfast we chose the Kings Court which is self service, it serves all the usual breakfast foods and was always good. Lunch time we either went to the Kings Court or the Golden Lion Pub. The Golden Lion serves bar food this was also very good, a bit more difficult to find a table unless you wait until after 1.30 though. Kings Court has a Chinese counter which we used a lot (excellent), a Carvery, La Piazza, which are also good and Chefs Galley where they cook burgers and hotdogs while you wait (excellent). Kings Court venues are used as separate dining rooms at night some which require booking, we never tried these at night, as with the Todd English which applies a cover charge. (ok for special occasions I suppose) As with any ship you can eat 24 hours a day. There were lots of activities going on all the time, quizzes, darts, lectures, dance classes, bingo, casino lessons, golf, art auctions, shopping offers, wine: martini: cocktail and whisky tasting (not all together though, charge applies), all the usual for cruise ships but on the Queen Mary there is no pressure to join in and no announcements every few minutes (bliss), so if you don't read your daily programme you miss them. All activities seemed to be well organized, but we didn't really do many ourselves. The planetarium shows are not bad I especially liked Cosmic Collisions out of the four different films. The ship has a Canon Ranch Spa & gym which looked wonderful but regretfully I did not use either. I did manage to climb into the hot tubs a few time though. My favorite one's are at the back on the ship looking out onto the wake. Unfortunately on a transatlantic crossing you do not get much of a chance to use the outdoor pools and hot tubs as the wind is too strong even hurricane force. The indoor pool area is not very big and soon fills up on bad weather days. Every evening there was a show of some kind with either musicians, west end singers, comedians, the Cunard singers and dancers or a RADA performance. With our holiday being three separate voyages some of the shows were repeated but is didn't really matter as there were so many other things going on as well. All the shows we went to were good but not really our cup of tea. We preferred to sit in one of the bars (the Commodore Club was one of our favorites) or the nightclub which had a live Caribbean band playing. The Casino and the Golden Lion tend to get a bit Smokey. A different film is shown every night in the cinema at various times. One down point was that the immigration procedures for leaving the ship were not made very clear and we often had to collect the forms from the purser which should have been delivered to the staterooms, this did cause a little confusion, especially in New York with customs forms. In New York we took the excursion transfer to times square (40 Dollars) and wandered about on our own for six hours visiting the Empire state building, Grand central station, and the shops around times square before transferring back to the ship, it's to long a walk from the Brooklyn cruise terminal to Manhattan. The Brooklyn bridge was celebrating 125 years with a fireworks display the day we were there, and Captain Wells delayed our sail away by 4 hours so we could watch them as we had a prime viewing position in front of the bridge. It was a fantastic 10 minute display. In Halifax we wandered along the boardwalk by the Harbour in the morning, found Alexander Keith's Brewery which is in a very busy market complex which is nice. It is possible to walk into the city here. After lunch we took the excursion scenic drive to Peggy's Cove which is a very pretty cove with a lighthouse a little crowded because of the tourists off the ship. (We did see our only whale here though) (44 dollars). Boston was my favorite port of call, we took an excursion Boston city sights and amphibious duck tour. (74 dollars). After a highlights tour on land we boarded a duck with Admiral Amnesia and splashed into the Charles River this was great fun and enjoyed by all. We then stopped at Quincy Market for lunch in an Irish Pub to sample the Boston Clam Chowder (delicious). After a bit of shopping we strolled around the harbour area before taking the ship's shuttle back to the ship (9 dollars). Back to New York and a Land and sea Tour (99 Dollars) which took us to Manhattan for a highlights tour by coach and then we had an hour to spend at Pier 21 a small shopping mall before boarding a boat for a trip along the Hudson river and past the Statue of Liberty. A nice way to spend a sunny day in New York. On arrival back at Southampton there was time for a leisurely breakfast before leaving the ship at approx 10.00am. The disembarkation is done by deck as it is fairly well organized. This cruise (voyage) was definitely the best we have been on so far. (we have also travelled with Fred Olsen, NCL, and Royal Caribbean). The ship and crew were first class. You do have to be prepared to dress up a little in the evenings, and be patient in the dining rooms. After reading some of the reviews on this site I must admit we were a little apprehensive but having now been on Queen Mary 2 we would definitely recommend her. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
As the mighty Queen Mary 2 passed her smaller predecessor, the graceful Queen Elizabeth 2 at Southampton, the 2 ships exchanged a volley of salutes. The deep blasts coming from the QM2 whistle initially startled me. Her deep-throated ... Read More
As the mighty Queen Mary 2 passed her smaller predecessor, the graceful Queen Elizabeth 2 at Southampton, the 2 ships exchanged a volley of salutes. The deep blasts coming from the QM2 whistle initially startled me. Her deep-throated sound, a copy of the original Queen Mary, stirred something deep within my bones. Throughout the week, the sound of that horn, (although, on some foggy nights in the Commodore Lounge, I felt it as much as heard it ) linked me to the proud heritage of Cunarders plying the North Atlantic. This was a day to say farewell to a dear old friend, our beloved QE2. Earlier that morning, we disembarked from our final cruise on her and shortly thereafter, Queen Elizabeth came aboard to bid farewell to the ship she had proudly christened over 40 years earlier. I first glimpsed her unmistakable profile on a cruise to Hawaii in 1989. What a beauty. And her beautiful classic silhouette remains mostly unchanged -- if only I had stayed so shipshape (ouch!) over the past 20 years. From the start, we were captured by her spirit. On our first trip, much of the "jet age" formica and jarring 1967 colors still remained -- a far cry from the classic luxury liner heritage one might expect and over the years, she underwent many refits and remodels. Her dining rooms changed size, names, even briefly swapped locations and her engines and propulsion system was totally replaced, yet she still maintained that special allure and grace that we experienced on first encounter and was always, unmistakably "QE2." Truth be told, she has never really lived up to her hype, yet it doesn't matter -- she has been well-maintained, yet something always felt a bit "tatty" to me. Perhaps that's part of what made her so easy to love. Seven days earlier, we boarded the QE2 in Civitavecchia, joining a Mediterranean cruise en-route which had departed Southampton a few days previous. This was to be our fourth and farewell voyage on her, and our first cruise on the Med. A bit about us: we're a gay couple in our 50s from San Francisco. These were our 19th and 20th cruises. We've been on a wide variety of ships and cruises, but generally prefer more traditional cruising. Before joining the QE2, we had spent 8 days in Spain (Madrid & Barcelona) and a too-short visit to Rome. QE2 - EMBARKATION AND CABIN We were READY for a return to familiar comforts on that day. We had originally planned on spending the morning at the Vatican Museum, but instead, I had spent hours sitting in a broken chair in a trailer at Ciampino Airport as I waited for Italian customs to inspect suitcases I had shipped in advance of the cruise. Lesson learned. Do NOT use zip ties when shipping to Italy. Authorities will not cut them without in-person permission of the owner. Our luggage shipping service had given me an address where my bags were held (Customs was characteristically circumspect on why they were holding them). However, when my cab tried to get there, we were stopped by Italian police with big guns, so he let me out. I think the Polizia were trying to be helpful, but they only spoke Italian. They kept on gesturing in one direction and indicating (I think) that I should walk back down that road and then turn right. Did I mention that they had very big guns? After turning right, and wandering near some locked fences and trailers, I found a woman named Paola who took pity on me. (She had come out of her company's trailer to feed some cats, and I became another stray.) She spoke little English, but was able to call the local folks at DHL (they were in an area inaccessible to me) -- and let me sit in the tipsy chair in her office as I waited and waited for customs to open my bags so they could check out my tuxedos and underwear. A couple of long cab rides later, we were on the dock ready to board. While we waited for someone at the Purser's Office to come out to check us onboard, we had the pleasure of meeting Shannel, a lounge waitress who was manning the water and juice station on the dock. She was a true joy -- we visited her often in the Yacht Club bar. (Not that we drink a lot but...) She had just transferred to the QE2 on this voyage from the QM2. To her delight, she found out a few days later that she was going back "home" to the QM2 on the same day we were due to board -- so we saw her on that ship as well (She also spread the word among the bar staff -- so from the start, we heard "Shannel told us about you!") We were quickly checked-in, greeted our cabin stewardess (who had thought we missed the boat when we failed to board at Southampton) and proceeded to race around the ship, reacquainting ourselves with her quirks. Yes, the map in the Chart Room still says "Le Harve" the little Princess Lounge on 1 Deck is open before dinner, and you still use the funny curving staircase to get to Boat Deck from the Yacht Club. Our cabin was one of a handful of Caronia class rooms squeezed in amongst the original first class cabins assigned to the Queens Grill. (We had been fortunate to be upgraded to one of these on our Panama Canal transit. They are HUGE with walk-in closets and bathrooms larger than entire cabins on 5 Deck.) Our cabin was a bit old fashioned, with portholes instead of windows and twin beds that can't be slid together, but it was immensely comfortable, with original wood paneling, ample closets and a large bathroom. QE2 DINING We ate in the single-seating, Caronia Dining Room. We shared a table for six with two couples from the north of England who had not known each other previously, but who got along famously. Just as they had become used to being the only ones at the table set for six, we appeared. No problem (I presume) -- it was a pleasure dining with them and we had many wonderful conversations. Food was uniformly excellent and service was flawless. We had dined in the Queens Grill on our two previous trips -- in fact, when we last dined there, it had a different name (Columbia). I wondered if the food in the "regular" dining rooms could compare. It did. Although we could not order off-menu (the extra perk of dining in the grills) -- the items on the standard menu were all tasty and perfectly prepared. Each dinner listed choices for appetizer, soup (including my favorite vacation indulgence - cold fruit soup), salad, entree and dessert. (On the two-seating Britannia Dining Room on the QM2, the first section combined the starters and soups, and was sadly lacking the delicious chilled fruit varieties.) The menus seemed to be somewhat more attuned to English passengers, since the ship has been primarily marketed in the UK and there were only a handful of Americans aboard. An additional advantage of having a single sitting is that breakfast and lunches were also at our usual table with our assigned waiters instead of open seating. We enjoyed having a sommelier for our table. Not that we have exotic tastes in wine, (in fact we often had only a single glass from the "list at the back.") but we find a lot is lost when their trained advice is replaced by a corporate recommendation published on the menus (with associated kickbacks to the line) QE2 ENTERTAINMENT, ACTIVITIES AND LECTURES On board activities and entertainment was of the level one would expect for a traditional line such as Cunard. There were numerous lectures and presentations. One of the special guest lecturers was a well-known (in the UK) author and police investigator. We did not attend his lectures but was told that they were fascinating. There was the usual bingo (reasonably priced) and napkin folding, but this is not the line for wacky pool games. Of particular note are the port lectures. Unlike other lines, where these presentations only serve to direct you to stores on the recommended (kickback) list -- these lectures highlighted the history and attractions at the ports. We REALLY appreciated this -- and the maps with the recommended shops were still included in the Daily Programme, for those interested. We noticed a definite upgrade in the production shows. To be frank, these were never the highlight of the QE2 experience. First, off until the mid-90s reconfiguration of the Grand Lounge there was no actual stage, and the troupe always seemed talented and eager but with limited resources. On this trip, not only did the (small) stage itself look improved, Cunard has upgraded the entertainment itself. The shows were interesting and the staging and talent was impressive (The Russian dancing during the "a Passionata" show was not to be missed!). The headliners were a mixed bag. We enjoyed a singer, Paul Emmanuel, but a guy who "rocked out" while playing a harp strapped to his belly was less impressive ...we left during his Riverdance number. QE2 - PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Before boarding, we arranged a private tour in Rome with Through Eternity Tours (www.througheternity.com). They matched us with an amazing woman named Gracelyn, who seemingly knew everything about the art and history of Rome, lived in San Francisco for a number of years and had been living in Rome since the mid-90s. We spent about 8 hours walking all over Rome, with a break at a wonderful spot for lunch. This was a highlight of the entire vacation and I cannot imagine a better way to see that beautiful city in a short time. In short, she was astonishing. We hit it off immediately, the tour was magnificent and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The downside of this was that she set a standard that could not be matched for later tours during excursions later on this trip. The next day we saw Florence. About half of the time was spent riding a bus back and forth to Florence from where we were docked in La Spezia (substituted at the last minute from Livorno). A long day, a hot day. A suggestion -- if you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery (HIGHLY recommended) you will probably need to get advance tickets on via the internet. Admittance was not included in most ship excursions. Next, we docked at Cannes. We took an excursion to Nice, Eze and Monte Carlo. We loved walking through the market at Nice, and the elegant beaux arts casino at Monte Carlo made us feel like James Bond (We DID have martinis, but we'd never be shaken or stirred enough to order them with vodka). The unexpected highlight of the excursion was the charming mountain town of Eze - a village seemingly constructed of steps, untouched for centuries. The ship still travels magnificently, cruising along at over 30 knots. In fact, the Commodore stressed that only she could travel from Barcelona to Gibraltar in a day -- something that standard cruise ships cannot. The downside of this was we had to leave Barcelona early and we had to be back on board by 1:30 PM. We spent four days there just a week before, so we had already seen the major sights further north (Gaudied ourselves silly by touring Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera, walked La Rambla, with diversions to the cathedral and the Picasso Museum). Instead, we set aside some time to visit Montjuic, the park on the hill near the port and ride the funicular to the Miro museum. I must admit that still don't "get" Miro, but still enjoy his work. Most delightful was seeing groups of young schoolchildren captivated by his colorful, simple art. Afterward, we stopped for a drink at a cafe under the trees back on La Rambla. While watching the passing scene, our tablemates happened by with the disturbing news that they had fallen victim to pickpockets. (Luckily, the losses were not too bad) Yes, those warnings are true. It does happen. Use caution. In Gibraltar, we walked to the tram that runs to the top of the rock and enjoyed the monkey business of the barbary apes living there. Just as we arrived at the top, it started drizzling - quickly turning to rain. No matter -- we were ready to get back to the ship and were looking forward to our first sea days. Good thing, because between the remainder of this cruise and the crossing, we had eight of them ahead of us. I'm not going to dig out our Daily Programmes to figure out EXACTLY what we did those last two days at sea, but I know it involved: eating, having a drink, bingo, having a drink, shopping for souvenirs, eating, having a drink, lecture, napkin folding, having a drink, playing trivia, drinking tea, dressing for dinner, having a drink before dinner, actually eating dinner, having a drink after dinner, seeing the show and then having a nightcap. ....I actually claim that the motion of the ship makes me sleep well, but my bar tab may hold a different explanation... QM2 TRANSFER AND CHECK-IN I had been a bit worried about what would happen on the day we were to check out of the QE2 and board the QM2 -- especially since they were at different wharves a couple of miles from another. There was no information available in advance. Worldwide port logistics and details have always been one of Cunard's strengths and I remembered the "White Star Service" signs throughout the ship, so I hoped for the best. A few days before arrival, I got instructions from the excursions office. There were only three of us transferring between ships. They arranged cabs for us and helped us load up. As we were waiting, we saw a number of guests arriving for lunch with the Queen (big cars, nice suits and silly hats). We arrived at the Mayflower Docks a bit before they were ready to accept boarding passengers and had to wait outside for about a half hour. We were among the first group processed and ultimately were on board within an hour. It was all basically painless. My jaw dropped once we came aboard the QM2. She is a stunner. Gorgeous. We entered on Three Deck. Especially impressive is that this deck is so tall -- ceilings are almost twice as high as on a normal ship. In fact, the two main public decks occupy the space normally taken by three. Upon boarding, you are confronted with a grand atrium with lots of marble, white plasterwork and (SOLAS-approved) wood. On these two decks are the shops (from essentials to extravagances), most of the bars, an extensively appointed showroom, the amazing Britannia Restaurant, the Queens Room ballroom, the planetarium, the G32 nightclub, Pursers Desk, excursions and cruise sales, a computer center, multiple classrooms, and photo and "art" galleries. ...and there are 10 other decks! QM2 CABINS We had a standard B3 cabin midships on Deck 4. Like most modern ships, all the basic cabins are prefab and identical -- differing only in location. On this ship, there are two kinds of balconies -- the ones on the lower decks (4-6) are cut into the hull and the ones on decks 8-12 are attached to the sides. Especially on a crossing, the extra shelter was appreciated, and as a fellow passenger, Tom Kanitra from the rec.travel.cruises newsgroup, observed -- when we look down, we see the sea. When the upper deck balconies look down, they see lifeboats. The cabin was nicely appointed with a great mattress and bedding, ample storage, and a decent bathroom with a good size shower. The beds combined to make a king and there was a little couch and desk with a 20 inch TV. I have a major objection to their television programming. Not the "Good Morning with Ray" show in the morning (it was fine), nor to the wide variety of free movies shown on multiple channels (a welcome change from some other lines). No. I objected to their choice for the one, single source for broadcast news for most of the voyage. Fox News. In my opinion, such a highly-partisan channel is a poor choice for this ship. Even if one accepts the argument that it's a necessary counterbalance to a perceived liberal bias of other networks, it follows that "the other side" should also be represented in order to be fair and balanced. Fundamentally, I would argue that an operation that describes itself as "America's News Channel" has an inappropriate focus for an international ship. (This sailing had large numbers of Brits, Germans and French passengers.) I'm aware that as the ship makes its voyage, different satellites come in range, so the choices may be limited -- but I find it hard to believe that BBC Worldwide, CNN International (or even Murdoch's Sky News International) were not available. QM2 DINING The main dining room, The Britannia Restaurant is spectacular. It has tiered seating over two decks on three levels with a grand staircase at one end and a dramatic tapestry of the Queen Mary opposite. It is simply the most beautiful dining room at sea. (Sorry -- no argument. It's an irrefutable fact!) There are two seatings, aside from a small section called "Britannia Club" with a single seating. We had a table for two in a wonderful location on the main floor. When the ship was launched, there were a lot of problems getting dinner service up to expectations. (They feed over 2000 passengers in the limited time available for two seatings -- and unlike the cookie cutter operations on large lines with similar ships, this was all new), Based upon other passengers' comments, I'd say that they've basically got it down. However, given our experience, they aren't completely there yet. Our service was merely okay -- on a par with what we've experienced on Princess or NCL -- but not what they proclaim as "White Star Service." Most meals had an unexplained pause at some point for twenty minutes or more. (On a couple of occasions, the waiter notified us of the problem which we appreciated) More often than not at some point, we missed being offered something (ground pepper, horseradish or other accompaniment, or the tray of chocolates and candied ginger at the end) and refills on water or coffee were often neglected. I believe the problem in our case was a new assistant waiter. However, if the operation has such little tolerance for a glitch like a rookie employee, I think they might need to revisit their staffing calculations. Not a real problem, but an area which might use further refinement. The food was excellent. No problems for any of the dishes. All were tasty and prepared as ordered. As previously mentioned, I missed seeing more chilled fruit soups. I also enjoyed the fruit sorbets on the QE2 and would have liked seeing them appear more often as dessert options. Although I found something to enjoy at each dinner, I was surprised not to see an "always available" selection of items published on the menu. (Later I found out from another passenger that their waiter told them of an unpublished list, but such items took extra time. Why it's a secret and why our servers never shared it with us, I have no idea.) We also ate at the premium restaurant, Todd English (reservations required, $30 surcharge). It was a wonderful experience. The food was truly special, the service was impeccable and the room was beautiful. I ordered the beef tenderloin -- it was delicious and the portion was more than ample ...as was I afterwards! Cunard celebrates tradition. This includes things like traditional dining with assigned seating, which we appreciate. It allows waiters to learn your preferences, and avoids the repetitive "who are you, is this your first cruise, where are you from?" drill when seated with strangers during open seating. Their embrace of tradition also applies to dress code. If you object to dressing up, this is not the line for you. There are three dress codes, which are more stringent than most other lines. Most evenings at sea are formal, which means tuxedos (worn by the majority of men) or suit and tie, Next comes semi-formal, for which both jacket and tie are required and finally elegant casual which means jacket required, tie optional. Obviously, women's dress requirements are similar. Casual dress is allowed at dinner in the Kings Court dining areas. The Kings Court buffet is an interesting experiment. Like on many recent ships, there are different areas for different types of items, which limits long, meandering lines and offers more variety. On the QM2, the buffet is broken up into four different sections which can be quite distant from one another, and can result in a nomadic buffet of passengers clutching their trays, searching for that last item they saw -- somewhere. During breakfast, there were multiple omelette stations with no waiting (a first!). At night, they partition the areas to provide separate rooms for Italian, Asian, and a demonstration kitchen, Chef's Galley. We didn't try them, but were told that the Chefs Galley experience is fun. Another great dining experience is the Golden Lion Pub lunch. They serve traditional pub grub like a plowman's lunch, cottage pie and fish & chips. Perfect with a pint! QM2 ACTIVITIES AND PUBLIC ROOMS How many ships have a planetarium? This one does! There are a wide variety of public areas and activities to fill them throughout the day and night. This is especially important on a crossing where every day is an 'at sea" day. About that planetarium. It really is impressive. It's housed in a room with steeply raked seating which is also used for lectures and movies. (The planetarium dome drops down from the ceiling when used for that purpose.) The half hour shows are licensed from the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Let me tell you, the motion of the ship adds a virtual reality aspect to the experience when the show has you swooping around the universe! One caution, it's really, really easy to fall asleep. The shows are scheduled for that drowsy time an hour or two after lunch, and once you tilt your chair back and they turn the lights down -- well, it's almost inevitable. Lectures were presented mainly in the Planetarium or the large, two-deck showroom. On this trip, we were lucky to have John Maxtone-Graham, naval historian, author of many books including "The Only Way to Cross." I have perhaps never seen more accomplished and entertaining presentations than his lectures. If you are lucky enough to cruise on ship featuring his lectures DO NOT MISS THEM. His lecture on the Titanic was spellbinding and even his final presentation which consisted of skits presented with his wife, which was by far his weakest, was worthwhile if only while he was giving a brief biography to hear him mention (in his sonorous upper-crusty accent ) one of his son's endeavors, a show called "Beevis and Butthead." On the other end of the ship is the beautiful Queens Room. If any one room exemplifies the QM2 it would be this large ballroom. It has a stage with a rounded bandshell proscenium which for some may recall the Radio City Music Hall. Ensconced therein is the twelve piece Queens Room Orchestra which plays dance music for the many couples who fill the immense dance floor. (Not me - "Dancing with the Stars" would be more aptly named "Stumbling with a Klutz") The two chandeliers and beautiful furnishings make this a very elegant room. One evening we enjoyed hearing the large orchestra play a program of big band music and watching the older couples in formal wear do swing dancing like when it was new. Formal tea was served in this room each afternoon by white-gloved attendants. (Yum!) Most evenings we stopped by the cozy and beautiful Commodore Club. Located forward of the suites on Deck 9, this forward-facing lookout bar is defined by the graceful curves of the front of the ship beneath the bridge. A classy room, it's just the place for a martini before dinner and a drink after. Each afternoon, the ship hosted a meeting there for "Friends of Dorothy" (an old-school euphemism for "gay") About two dozen friends showed up each day -- and the get-together was a great preamble to trivia contests down in the pub. Our winning team's name was the "Dorothys." Besides offering lunch, the pub was bustling day and night also featuring entertainment, contests and the like. The lovely Shannel handled the crowds there with warmth and style. Across from the pub was the casino with a wide variety of tables and slot machines, I was pleased to see that the table limits for Blackjack were reasonable. My only problem was the so-called "Fun 21" table which offers a simplified version of 21 with decreased odds. Both on the QE2 and the QM2, this table was usually empty, as people crowded the others offering traditional rules. Perhaps Cunard should pay attention -- their passengers probably aren't the Fun 21 type. (Surprising to see this. Carnival has a subsidiary which concessions the casinos for all their lines and they aren't exactly known for "leaving money on the table.") On a more uplifting note, is the extensive library and bookshop located directly beneath the Commodore Club. Besides a large collection of books (maintained by a professional librarian) -- there are computer terminals and lots of comfy chairs where you can curl up and gaze at the sea from a spectacular vantage point. THE TRANSATLANTIC EXPERIENCE Yes, the ship is beautiful, the food excellent, the activities diverse and the service exquisite -- but there's something special about a crossing. Most specifically, there's something extraordinary about the Queen Mary 2 when she's as she's racing across the North Atlantic, doing exactly what she was designed to do. She is the latest, and soon to be the only representative of a proud tradition. That heritage sets her apart. I can't describe how or why I felt it from the moment I stepped aboard, but she's inescapably part of that long line of glorious liners and she quickly seduced me with the romance of those who had crossed before me. She rides the North Atlantic like a champ. Her strengthened hull and distinctive bow cut through the most daunting waves, and her extra size really makes a difference as well. On our second day out, the seas were at least twenty feet, and I heard some guessing thirty. Yet, she handled them with ease. Yes there was a bit of motion -- but far less than a standard cruise ship might encounter in normal Caribbean seas. The dramatic wings at the front of the ship (with the rakish black stripes) and a similar barrier aft provide shelter for the upper balconies as she speeds along at thirty knots or more. Yes, her bow is beautiful and her look dramatic -- but most importantly, it's all there for a reason. The ship is an amalgam of the 21st century technology and experience going back to the 19th. Yes, I was sad when I said goodbye to my beloved QE2, and indeed my eyes are getting moist as I write this, but thanks to Stephen Payne, her architect, Commodore Warwick, her first master, Mickey Arison the CEO of Carnival who championed her and countless others (some of whom tragically lost family at the shipyard in St. Nazare) -- there is a proud new ship to carry on the tradition and I have a new, special place in my heart for my "beloved QM2." Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
This voyage exceeded our expectations. While not perfect in every respect, nothing in this world is. There were so many positive notes that we will surely be back. Getting There and Back. Finding Red Hook terminal took a bit of work as ... Read More
This voyage exceeded our expectations. While not perfect in every respect, nothing in this world is. There were so many positive notes that we will surely be back. Getting There and Back. Finding Red Hook terminal took a bit of work as the driver of the black car we took from Manhattan did not know where the cruise terminal was. He read the instructions provided with the cruise documents and it was pretty straight forward from there. We purchased Cunard's transfer services to Newark airport. Embarkation. We arrived in Red Hook at about noon and were caught in a long, very slow moving lineup of cars (two lanes crawling towards the actual terminal entrance). It was raining hard and it was a good 20 minutes till we were close enough to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way. We noticed (too late for us) that a couple of yellow cabs had taken a shortcut and dropped off their passengers at the same spot we got off avoiding the lineup. They had obviously been there before. On Board. We were greeted by smiling, courteous crew members and were able to go to our cabin (in-hull balcony on Deck 5) immediately. Our cabin was immaculate and our stewardess, Melissa, appeared shortly to introduce herself. She was, along with every other crew member we met, instrumental in our enjoyment of this voyage. Everyone we came in contact with was attentive, truly useful (more on this later) and at the same time completely unobtrusive - there, but not there if you know what I mean. The passenger mix was mostly American with a healthy dose of Canadians and not as many British as will be found on the Transatlantic crossings. This was a grown-up crowd with seniors dominating, a handful of teenagers and even fewer children. Overall Impressions of the Ship. QM2 is a beautiful vessel. We found no fault with its cleanliness or state of repair. Its dEcor is elegant, tasteful and understated - a true pleasure to walk about admiring the quality of its finishes. It is large and it takes quite a while to get your bearings (5 days is barely enough to get used to its layout). It is also the smoothest sailing I've experienced. Its public areas are all welcoming but expansive - the only place where we were never able to find a table for lunch was the Golden Lion Pub. A favorite of ours was the Commodore Lounge where we enjoyed a few quiet pre-dinner drinks. I concur with other CC members who have said that setting up the tables with the "sale" jewelry, perfume, etc. in the principal hallways really detracts from the beauty and elegance of the ship. Lots of nooks and crannies to curl up with a book or play a board game, as well as comfortable lounge chairs on deck to watch the ocean rush by. The Crew. There is much debate on this board as to what constitutes great service. QM2 is a huge ship carrying over 2500 passengers. This in itself will have an impact on how "personal" service is. Having said that, the fact that no one knew us by name was more than offset by the demonstrations of truly helpful and sincere attention we received. One example: walking into King's Court late in the afternoon to see if reservations could be made for that evening at Chef's Galley. A busy waiter left what he was doing and took it upon himself to phone the head waiter on our behalf to ensure that we could get our reservations. Many other small gestures that made it a smooth and enjoyable experience: Never once did we go back to our cabin to find that it had not been made up. Our stewardess had this special ability to be almost invisible while at the same time attending to our cabin in the most prompt and impeccable manner. Eating Alternatives. We had one dinner and one lunch at the Britannia Restaurant. This room is beautiful and we found the food to be generally good. Service at dinner time was spotless and efficient while service during lunch was slow. We spent two hours there, mostly waiting for our food to arrive. I attribute this to the large number of tables assigned to a small number of wait staff. Nothing to complain about but we were there for a good two hours - a bit much for lunch when there's so much to do! We had hoped to have lunch at the Golden Lion but, as discussed above, it was overflowing every time we tried. We had a quick lunch at the Boardwalk cafe - burger was very good, seemed freshly made and not cooked to death as it's the norm now everywhere in North America. Nothing special here but nevertheless no complaints either. We attempted to lounge there for a while but it was too windy. Lunch (and breakfast for that matter) at the King's Court is fine but not remarkable. We also ordered breakfast through room service - the menu is limited but it's a good option if you want to avoid the crowds of King's Court. In fact, it was the best option when we wanted to fit in a workout before going to shore on port days. We dined at Todd English once; it was a truly enjoyable experience with excellent food and a very good, reasonably priced wine list. I highly recommend it. We also dined at three of the alternative restaurants in Kings Court. La Piazza and Lotus offered very good food and excellent service while the Chef's Galley on our last night was a great way to end this memorable trip. The Chef was very personable, providing an entertaining demonstration of the dishes we were to enjoy and giving the small audience great little "tips". Service was impeccable, as good or better than that at any top restaurant on land. It seems to us that there has been a lot of thought given by Cunard to ensure that guests have a variety of dining options, all of which are special in some way. Facilities. Great library with very decent collection of books in different languages - something for every taste. A couple of hours were spent there reading by the window in a most relaxing atmosphere. We soaked away our tiredness in one of the whirlpools at the back of the ship after a full day walking through Boston. Great spot to watch all the activity around the port and the nearby airport. Entertainment and Enrichment. Rock @ the Opera and Apassionatta are both great shows. The skill and quality of the dancers (with one exception all from the Ukraine) is fantastic. The comedian was just ok in our opinion. We missed the vocalist performance. The RADA performance of Great Expectations (less than 1 hour long) was just too rushed. You can only make it so short before it really loses too much. We attended three of the four lectures - all entertaining and informative and one of the planetarium movies, Cosmic Collisions - good fun. Cunard gets much deserved Kudos for the breadth, quality and variety of the entertainment and enrichment activities. Onshore experience. Halifax and Boston (both new destinations for us). We did our own walking tours of these cities as we do whenever possible so I can't comment on the ship's shore excursions. The weather was not great the day we were in Halifax and a long walk through town and a visit to the Citadel fort was all we could fit in before having to go back on board. The day in Boston was much longer and we only returned to the ship when we could walk no more. Following the Freedom Trail and returning to port walking along the seaboard was great. Weather was beautiful that day. All in all, a very memorable experience which we look forward to repeating. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My husband and I both have fond memories of ocean voyages decades ago. He and his mother and brother traveled from Panama to New York in the 1950s when his dad was in the Navy. I traveled from New York to Norway and back in the 1960s. We ... Read More
My husband and I both have fond memories of ocean voyages decades ago. He and his mother and brother traveled from Panama to New York in the 1950s when his dad was in the Navy. I traveled from New York to Norway and back in the 1960s. We both remembered enjoying being at sea, and have never been interested in island-hopping cruises with non-stop manufactured fun. We stumbled on a cable program about the building of the QM2 several months ago, and knew that this was the ship we'd been waiting for. My husband's initial thought that the QM2 was way beyond our budget was allayed later that evening when I did some online checking and found prices that we could afford. And a few weeks later the opportunity came to get away. I found a too-good-to-pass-up deal online on a Britannia Club stateroom, and we jumped on it. We drove from Baltimore to the Brooklyn terminal on the morning of embarkation. With EZPass we didn't waste any time at toll booths. The only real bottleneck was at Exit 13 of the New Jersey Turnpike (just past the toll booth), where there were more cars than lanes to get onto the bridges to Brooklyn. The only other delay was sitting in a long line of vehicles inside the terminal area, inching our way toward the terminal building to unload. A porter helped unload the car, and I waited at the terminal while my husband parked. At that point we were about ½ hour behind our assigned boarding time of 12:30. The check-in line was already fairly long, but we watched it grow longer behind us and were happy we arrived when we did. Once we checked in, we had our photo snapped, entered the ship, were greeted by assembled crew, and directed to the proper elevator. I had read on the boards that on embarkation, it's wise to hop on a down elevator, as the up elevators fill up fast, and that's what we did. When we got off the elevator at Deck 12, we saw one of our bags in the elevator area - and the others were already in our cabin. Joue (pronounced Joey), our cabin steward, arrived moments later with the final bag, showed us around and noted that we could call him by pressing the steward button on the phone. The room was clean, comfortable and quite lovely. There are two built-in closets with hangars (the smaller one would probably do for coats on a cold-weather sail) separated by a console with four drawers, a fairly deep shelf and the room safe. We could have used an additional drawer, but we managed well enough. Suitcases stowed under the bed. The bathroom was clean and functional, with decent counter and shelf space for toiletries. As noted elsewhere, the shower is unlighted, but the shower itself was easy to regulate and had great water pressure. After getting settled, we did some shipboard exploring and ventured into the King's Court on Deck 7 for a late-ish lunch. The buffet was understandably crowded, but we found enough to tide us over until dinner and then found a table in a little bay window where we observed some folks already doing their three laps around the deck that make up a mile. Although we were scheduled to leave in late afternoon, the Captain announced that our departure would be delayed until 9 p.m. so we could see fireworks to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge. The times of evening activities were adjusted accordingly. We made it into the Britannia Club dining room at about 7 p.m. We were seated at a table for six. I'm not sure how "they" made table assignments, but we all enjoyed each other's company so much that dinner became a highlight of the day, and we were often the last ones to leave the dining room. On that first evening, the staff did their best to get us out in time to make it up on deck to see the fireworks. Alas, we emerged onto Deck 13 just in time for the last big boom. Apparently the fireworks had gotten wet during the afternoon's rain, and the show was over almost before it began. However, a bunch of us hardy souls stayed topside as the ship made its way out of New York Harbor. It was unseasonably chilly, and very windy at the top of the ship, but the view of the skyline and the lights and the Statue of Liberty were worth it. Many of us made our way to an observation platform even higher up to watch the ship go under the Verazanno Narrows Bridge. We saw a helicopter fly by at eye level, and then watched in wonder as the front masts cleared the bridge. Everyone cheered, and then we turned to watch as the stack just cleared by 7 or so feet - and we cheered again. After that, we were ready to head back to our room. We filled in the hangtag to order room service breakfast and settled in for the night. Actually, we were up half the night either out on the balcony, or sitting up looking out the door/window as we passed the lighthouses along the Long Island shore. Our Friday at sea was all we had hoped for. The weather was clear and sunny. Breakfast arrived on time and as ordered. We paid a visit to the observation are of the bridge, just down the corridor from our room, and then set off to do more exploring. We had discovered the glass elevators that run between Decks 7 and 11 at the bow, and they became one of our favorite conveyances. It's a great (and quick) way to travel between the observation deck and Atlantic Room on Deck 11, the Commodore Club on Deck 9, the Library on Deck 8, and the Gym and Promenade on Deck 7. As you explore, be sure to find the "Propeller Farm" towards the bow. This is an array of beautiful curved metal fins that look like sculptures, but we were told they're extra propeller fins. We lost track of time that day and all of a sudden it was 2:30, too late for lunch in Britannia Club, so we hot-footed it to the Golden Lion Pub, which serves until 3. That's definitely the time to go. The place was more than half empty, and we got a lovely table by a window, where we watched some fishing trawlers in the distance bounce up and down on the whitecaps. Our Queen didn't even feel the swells! We had the lunch specials - barbecued chicken for my husband, and an Indian curried chicken dish for me. Both entrees were excellent. Then we were back out on deck to enjoy the weather and relax. We found sheltered deck chairs (just aft of the lifeboats) on the sunny side, and just chilled out (and napped - this was the first non-working vacation for both of us in so long we couldn't remember the last one). And then it was time to get ready for dinner. Note that we didn't do any activities. There's plenty to do if you want things to do, but if you just want to relax, this is definitely the place to do it. And the ship is roomy enough that you never feel like you're part of a crowd. We were lazy again the next morning, and were in no particular hurry to get off the ship in Halifax. Our cabin was on the outboard side of the ship, and we were treated to watching the crew conduct its own lifeboat drill. The passengers had assembled on Thursday afternoon in their assigned places, and practiced putting on life jackets. This time the crew actually launched the lifeboats, drove them around in circles, and then recovered the boats. My husband had been in Halifax several times, once as part of the crew on a 45-foot sailboat, and so we opted to see things on our own rather than sign up for a shore excursion. The dock is a short walk from everything in town, and there are taxis available (with posted fares) if you want to hire one on your own to go farther afield. The terminal in Halifax is bustling with lots of shops, too. As we left Halifax late that afternoon, it started to rain. A kilted piper and drummer stood in the doorway of the terminal building and played us off. Many of us found semi-dry places on the deck to watch and listen. Somehow, "Scotland the Brave" seemed especially poignant as the ship pulled away. From there we took our favorite glass elevator up to the Library, and watched for the landmarks and lighthouses as we made our way back out to sea. On Sunday morning we arrived in Boston. As we came into the harbor, we were joined by small armed Coast Guard vessels, one on either side of the ship. There was a crew member stationed at the forward gun. Any time a small boat tried to venture too close, the Coast Guard boats went into high gear and chased them off. Such is life in the post-9/11 world. The biggest hassle of the entire voyage was going through immigration in Boston. Originally we were given times to proceed to the immigration check-in. However, there were problems with the docking and gangplanks in Boston, and the immigration folks were late getting on board. So - everyone was directed to report to the appropriate area (one for U.S. citizens, one for others) at the same time. And the line stretched literally from one end of the ship to the other. It moved relatively quickly, and the immigration folks did little more than glance at passports before handing out landing cards. My Massachusetts cousins met us near the ship. Because of security concerns, visitors aren't allowed on board, so we weren't able to show off "our" ship, but we ventured off into Boston proper and took their adopted Chinese daughters (ages 6 and 9) to Old North Church and Paul Revere's House - and had some great pizza and enjoyed a street performance festival at Faneuil Hall. That wore us all out, and we were back on board in time to get ready for dinner and trade experiences with our table mates. By the time the staff gently hinted that it was time for us to go (they had started setting other tables for breakfast), we were ready to call it a night. On Monday we finally "did" things - a couple of lectures, a book-signing, and an informal veterans' gathering. Then it was time for lunch in Britannia Club, the art auction, and time to hit our favorite deck chairs before we had to get ready for the evening. We opted for the early performance of "Apassionata," an energetic dance show that was repeated later in the evening. And then it was off for our final dinner. As dinner ended, our waiter and his assistant presented us with a folder with all the menus from our sail. It's a nice souvenir, and useful. There were some things on the menu that translate to home. And that's a nice segue into the dining experience. We thoroughly enjoyed dining in Britannia Club. The space is intimate and the open seating means that you can arrive at any time during posted meal hours. The table was ready for us in the morning for breakfast, and at lunch, as well as for dinner. The food was generally excellent. When we asked for really crisp bacon for breakfast the first time, we got it - and got it without asking every other morning. The staff got to know us by name, and picked up on our preferences quickly. And they didn't bat an eye if someone ordered three appetizers, as one of our table companions once did. I ended up following that lead (to a point) and opted for a second appetizer instead of a salad that evening. The only disappointment was the lobster tail, which wasn't served with drawn butter - but I didn't think to ask if we could get drawn butter, so I shouldn't complain. And so our sail ended and we came back into New York. The helicopter escort flew by at balcony level. And all too soon it was time to head down to the Winter Garden and wait for our turn to leave the ship. Disembarkation went very smoothly. We found our luggage (placed outside our door before midnight) easily, and then found a porter with a cart. He went with us all the way to the car. My husband had paid for parking before we left the terminal, and once the car was loaded, we were on our way home. All in all, this was a wonderful way to take a vacation, and we hope to sail on the QM2 again before too long. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
As we had only previously cruised on an NCL 'freestyle' cruise we decided to experience a more formal type of cruise and so decided on Cunard. Embarkation at Southampton was a dream. From arrival at the terminal to sitting in ... Read More
As we had only previously cruised on an NCL 'freestyle' cruise we decided to experience a more formal type of cruise and so decided on Cunard. Embarkation at Southampton was a dream. From arrival at the terminal to sitting in our stateroom took just 20 minutes, all handled by very friendly and efficient staff. Luggage arrived around 15 minutes later. The cabin was spacious and beautifully presented with a large 'sheltered' balcony. The bathroom was adequate with a small curtained and, strangely, unlit shower. We were slightly disappointed in the sheltered balcony since the front is steel and sitting on the deck chairs you have no view. Walking through this huge, magnificently appointed ship was quite awesome. The decor is mainly art deco and the public rooms and areas are extremely impressive. Special mention here for the Commodore Lounge,the stunning Library and the Britannia Dining room. Due to the size of the ship it does take a little time to find your way around and the maps provided in your cabin are invaluable.The size of the ship and the fact that it was designed for transatlantic crossings means that it is extremely stable and comfortable to be on. No rocking or rolling for this ship! We found the food in the Kings Court, on the few occasions we used it, to be very good but the customer flow through the restaurants took some time to get used to. The various areas of the Kings Court are converted in the evening to different restaurants eg Chinese,Italian and a carvery which can be booked if required. We preferred to use the Britannia for breakfast and lunches on sea days although we did indulge in room service breakfast on 3 occasions. Impressive that the food had to come a long way but was always lovely and hot. The standard of food in Britannia was excellent and we managed to sample frogs legs,snails,lobster tail and surf and turf. The service in this restaurant was 1st class and would shame most 5star hotels. Our only disappointment was the Todd English(additional payment)restaurant.The menu was typically american and the food seemed to lack finesse. Definitely not worth the extra!Wine and drinks on board were reasonable and positively cheap compared to NCL. The boardwalk cafe area on deck 12 needed more shading for the the very hot days we had. Tours from the ship were all good, if a little expensive and the guides were all extremely patient and informative.Ports of call with the exception of Vigo were great choices. On board the entertainment was varied from theatrical shows to guest speakers. The planetarium was particularly interesting. We found the staff to be very willing and with seemingly endless patience, particularly with the older passengers of whom there were many. We loved the formal and gala nights where the ship and Briannia restaurant positively buzzed. We had chosen a table of 6 and were so fortunate to meet two delightful couples with whom we became great friends. Disembarkation was as well organized as our arrival on the ship but came all too soon. We loved this beautiful spotless ship with it's marvellous service. What a wonderful way to travel the high seas Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
For those who know the Cunard line, the new Queen Victoria (QV) is a somewhat improved, yet understated version of her older "sister" Queen Mary II. QV has a more intimate feel, with impeccable service in all classes. Many highly ... Read More
For those who know the Cunard line, the new Queen Victoria (QV) is a somewhat improved, yet understated version of her older "sister" Queen Mary II. QV has a more intimate feel, with impeccable service in all classes. Many highly experienced staff members from QM and Princess were recruited for QV. Sadly, Cunard chose not to include an enclosed swimming facility, which was sorely missed on the June 10 Norway sail. The Royal Court Theater with two tiers of theater boxes was extraordinary. Dining: Cunard has retained the old "class system", with vast improvements for the two "Grills" classes. The Queens and Princess Grills have access on the uppermost levels to a private outdoor lounge area, private bar, and both out and indoor single-seating dining areas. Britannia class passengers, making up the vast majority of the passengers, have a choice of early or late seating in the Britannia restaurant. Both the food and food service in the Britannia are excellent; guests can order an "off the menu" steak or salmon at any time. Britannia guests are made to feel both special and welcome. Waiters make an effort to remember the names of the passengers and their food preferences. All guests have access to Todd English ($30 surcharge in the evening); there is an alternative theme dining room and a theme buffet in the Lido each evening. In addition, there is a wonderful pasta bar/pizza station in the Lido. Cunard's food service in the Lido runs almost 24/7! The pastry chefs made the most fantastic chocolate chip cookies, available along with tea sandwiches, scones and pastries from 3 pm to 5:30 each day. (We would fill a plate with cookies and save them for early morning excursions the next day.) There is a lovely tea service each afternoon in the Queens room. QV offers a variety of Twinning's teas; unfortunately, the coffee is not up to US standards (i.e., strong and delicious). Breakfasts could be more varied (more smoked salmon, please!). We had no trouble bringing aboard a bottle of duty free Scotch. Bottles are sold in the ship's store as well. The wine list is extensive (many offered by the glass) and the Britannia has 22 sommeliers! Two wine tastings (modest surcharge) were held on sea days. QV's "mixologists" have created a number of specialty drinks. The Rose Petal Martini packs a particular punch! Drinks are fairly priced (roughly half of what a New York City restaurant would charge). Children's Program: QV ran a full children's program even though there were only a dozen or so children on Board. There is a facility for the six-and under group; seven-year-olds and up had a separate facility (the Zone). My eleven-year old could not stay away - it was pasta at the Lido at six, then up to the Zone at eight! The Zone had an area for movies (the preferred evening entertainment), air hockey, arts and crafts, games and assorted electronic equipment. Entertainment: Cunard's musicians, singers and dancers are all top notch and extremely professional. I thought, however, that QM had a more extensive roster of entertainers. The lecturers are quite proficient. Surprisingly, there were no "shore" lectures that many other cruise lines seem to offer. (Those are lectures where passengers who are not on shore excursions receive detailed information about local sights, restaurants, shopping and transportation.) The daily bulletin had an information sheet on each port, but the information was a bit cursory. The QV Library has a wide range of books on many different subjects and is a popular spot. Seats in the Library are in heavy demand. Accommodations: It is now common knowledge that the cabins are shy drawer space and that the shower is very small. (My husband remarked that it was simply not possible to get every part of one's body clean in a shower of that size!) We managed, however, to stow all of our gear, but it is probably advisable to pack light. Laundry service is excellent. The cabin stewards are well trained and highly responsive. QV, like QM, has its own noise issues. Those affected by noise should not book 8th floor cabins underneath the Lido. (Note to the QV Engineers - next time in dry dock, rip up the Lido terra cotta floors and add an insulation layer.) Room service in the Britannia is good, but limited (if you can get them on the telephone!). Shore Excursions: We had a preference for "active" shore trips and were not disappointed. Those trips tend to attract fewer people. The three-hour Guided Mountain Hike through the Fjords was splendid as was the uphill hike to the Glacier (Olden). Both trips had only about thirty passengers. Our daughter loved the visit to the Husky camp - it is possible to pick up and play with the husky puppies. The Island Bird Watching expedition was also extremely worthwhile. We suited up in all-weather jump suits (it was pretty cold), went out on a small fishing boat and saw Puffins, eagles, seals and a host of other indigenous bird life. (BYO binoculars). Local tour guides were knowledgeable and spoke beautiful English (better than most of the tourists!) Spa Services: My husband booked four massages of varying types and was quite satisfied. There is a separate charge for the some of the spa facilities. Many ships, including the QM, allow persons booking treatments to use these facilities for free (on the day of the treatment); this was not the case on the QV. The Beauty Salon was in high demand; my daughter (yes, the eleven-year-old) and I booked manicures and pedicures. They were high quality, as were the products they sold. Athletic Facilities: We are not one for gyms (it looked great, however), but had a great time at the ping-pong table. We managed to get in one game of Paddle Tennis. For some reason, Cunard tends to place the Paddle Tennis court in the windiest area of the ship, although it had a little bit of protection from the elements. There is no real promenade area, but it is possible to construct a jogging path along the 9th and 10th decks. All in all, the Queen Victoria rates an "Excellent" in our book.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
With all the negative reviews I had read about the QV, I had the feeling that i would be pleasantly surprised. Not only was I not disappointed but cruising on the beautiful Queen Victoria cemented in my mind how we would holiday in the ... Read More
With all the negative reviews I had read about the QV, I had the feeling that i would be pleasantly surprised. Not only was I not disappointed but cruising on the beautiful Queen Victoria cemented in my mind how we would holiday in the future. Being ozzies, we have not had the opportunity to cruise as much as those from the USA or UK, so we could not make comparisons, we just enjoyed! Flying to Paris via Zurich 10 days before the cruise, we arrived in Southampton with FlyBE at 10 am on departure day and were met at the airport by our driver from West Quay Cars. I had booked a half day tour of Hampshire which included Stonehenge and which was to get us back to the docks around 2 pm. The tour began well but on the way to Stonehenge, the traffic suddenly came to a standstill and we ended up being 1 hr behind schedule! We didn't get back to the Docks until 3 pm and by then I was somewhat stressed, since I am perfectionist about timing and I didn't want to rush on board. Unfortunately that's what happened. We embarked quickly without any hassles but had little time to unpack before they announced muster. One good thing was the extremely civilized way muster took place in the theatre rather than the usual deck that tends to be hot and squeezy. Then we had to meet our friends as prearranged and before we knew it, we were pulling away. Then as we were early sitting, we had to get changed for dinner, so quickly grabbed the outfit close to the top of the case, which then ended up being a little more informal than the rest of those at our sitting. Oh well, we soon got into the routine- so much so that I just wanted to go on each night dressing up like a queen and being treated like royalty. Maybe there was one too many formal nights - we were all glad when the 5th was over! The CABIN was good - subtle relaxing colours - we were on the port side which was blue carpet and pillows - starboard had red. Bed was great, pillows large and fluffy, much too thick a downer / duvet and yes, not enough drawers. great balcony, not squeezy. Then there was the bathroom - miniature - what I would call a standard Carnival bathroom that just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the Cunard image! DINING was wonderful. At 60+ yrs, we were the youngest on our table, but we had lovely companions - one elderly couple from the US which we hope to see again one day and two lovely English ladies. The service was really bad for the first two nights, so much so that a complaint was made to the Maitre' D, after which we were served 3 courses in the first hour!. After that we all adjusted to the routine and dinner was a most enjoyable experience. I could not fault the food especially since I had requested low fat and every night the Head Waiter ensured that I received as requested. We had breakfast and lunch in the dining room as much as possible and each time we were given a table by the window and attended to with the usual attentiveness. ENTERTAINMENT was very good. Every evening we went directly to the Theatre and even though we went early to get a good seat, we felt spoiled just sitting in the beautiful red velvet seats and soaking in the atmosphere. The production nights were superb - vibrant costuming and exciting dancing. I personally did not like most of the individual performers but the flautist and violinist were excellent. We tried out the boxes on two occasions and again felt very special just sitting there The PORTS were good, but we mostly had either private tours or did our own thing. Bruges was just delightful, Tallin good and similar to Dubrovnik, Gdansk delightful because of the enthusiastic young tour guide. Then there was St Petersburg. Hmmm supposed to be the highlight, I can only say it was the lowlight. Extremely crowded (7 ships were in port), we and some others that we spoke to, found St Pete depressing. We had arranged an Alla Tour with a gp of 12 and it was great to be in a small tour gp. Everything went according to plan (except for the evening folk show exit from the dock - the customs woman wouldn't let us out without a ticket and had the tour guide not come to the rescue we might still be standing on the dock!). However, although the palaces and cathedrals were magnificent, the traffic jams, basic food, dismal surroundings and exorbitant prices we all had to pay ( whether you took the ship's excursions or private), did not really do much for us. On the other hand, the ship's excursion we took in Finland to a family farm which bred horses, was relaxing, informative and very enjoyable. We had been to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo so we just wandered around reminiscing all the time. The ship was docked almost in the downtown shops, which made wandering very easy! Finally DISEMBARKATION. because we had booked the train from Southampton to Gatwick airport, we had to disembark ourselves without help as the train went before the porters started work! Considering the porters had totally broken the top handle of one of the suitcases at embarkation, we managed to drag the heavy cases off ourselves OK and negotiate a taxi very quickly. It was exhausting but very easy. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
We undertook a Trans-Atlantic crossing on the QM2 to cap two weeks of touring in France and the U.K. We knew we wanted some recovery time, and to dodge jet-lag before school started--and we made the perfect choice. We are a family of four, ... Read More
We undertook a Trans-Atlantic crossing on the QM2 to cap two weeks of touring in France and the U.K. We knew we wanted some recovery time, and to dodge jet-lag before school started--and we made the perfect choice. We are a family of four, with a daughter 15 and son 12. I'll try to cover details reflecting both the adult and family aspects of the crossing. Embarkation: We arranged for a private transfer from London to Southampton, taking a recommendation from the Britain and Cunard boards here on Cruise Critic to include a visit to Stonehenge en route. We used Woodruff Chauffeur Cars, who made the transfer easy and were responsive to all our email queries. Stonehenge was about 90 minutes from London, and we spent about 45 minutes at the site. It was a further 45 minutes to Southampton, and we arrived at the pier just before noon. Embarkation was handled very smoothly, and we were on the ship by 12:30 p.m. We had filled out all pre-cruise forms on the Cunard Voyage Personaliser site, and this expedited our processing--just a quick passport and credit card check. We proceeded to have lunch at Kings Court, and were in our staterooms by 1:30 p.m. Luggage began arriving by 2:00 p.m., including one bag we shipped ahead using the White Star Luggage service with DHL. The shipped bag was in good shape, and enabled us to forward all evening clothes and shoes. We sent tuxes/jackets/trousers down to be pressed that afternoon, and they were returned by 5:00 p.m. the following day. Accommodations: We had booked connecting Britannia Club staterooms on Deck 12, 12065 and 12067. We made extensive use of the balconies during the crossing, and very much enjoyed the open configuration. Despite the ship's speed during the crossing, we read and watched for whales and dolphins from the balconies on all but one day of the crossing--more on that later..... There was ample storage, and we were very impressed by the bathrooms--ample shower space and storage and good quality toiletries. We selected the Britannia Club category mainly to access the single seat dining feature in the Britannia Club section of the dining Room, and expanded a la carte menu. We found the location on deck 12 very enjoyable, just steps from the covered pool, hot tubs and Pavilion Bar. It was a very quiet area of the ship, and we enjoyed excellent cabin service--friendly, very thorough and well-timed to our schedule. Dining: After reading a range of comments in previous Member reviews of the QM2, we were uncertain about what to expect in the dining room. We found the food quality, service, selection and pacing of dinner to be outstanding every evening in the Britannia Club. Our waiter was friendly, professional and very attentive to our kids--they enjoyed dinner every night. We found the main menu selections very appealing, but mixed in appetizers, salads and entrees from the a la carte menu at every meal--all arrived hot, well presented and flavorful. We found the food quality and service comparable to main dining room service on Celebrity, and the extra-fee restaurants on Royal Caribbean. I was especially impressed by the wine service. We ordered a different bottle each night for dinner, and the wine steward was very knowledgeable about the vintages for every selection we considered. Her advice steered us to several new choices, and we found the wine pricing very fair--with a good selection of French and Italian wines. Given the relaxed pace of the schedule, our kids posed no resistance to dressing for dinner--our daughter enjoyed the formal atmosphere, and our son actually stayed in his suit for the Kids Club activities on several nights. We did not have breakfast in the dining room during the crossing, but did have lunch on four of the days. Service for lunch was on par with dinner, with again very good choices. It was a pleasure to have the dinner menu included with the menu for lunch, so we take dinner selections into account while ordering for lunch. Wine left over from the previous dinner was available at the table for lunch--that contributed to ordering a different wine at dinner each night! Weather: Overall, very calm and the ship seemed to hardly register the sea conditions. We had one very rough day, with Force 11 (Gale) winds, and sea conditions of 6 to 9 meters--20 to 28 foot waves. Passengers and crew alike felt it, and the ship was fairly quiet during the day, and dinner was only about 60% attended that evening. By 9:00 p.m., the ship was back to normal, but we certainly knew we were in the North Atlantic. We were outside on deck every day with the exception of the storm, and while windy, enjoyed the balconies throughout the crossing. Activities/Atmosphere: After closing following postings and reviews about the QM2 on these boards, we had been amused by the many comments about "attire" on board the QM2. We found the ship during the day to be pretty much like any other cruise--shorts/khakis, polo shirts, jeans were all in abundance, and were absolutely appropriate and welcomed. Kids were largely in shorts and t-shirts. We found the atmosphere on the ship to be informal, inviting and family friendly. Attire at night was formal, and we found the overwhelming majority in the Britannia Dining Room in sync with the guidelines, including kids. Any anxieties about an overly formal environment were put aside on the first day--it was a very relaxed tone throughout the crossing. We participated in the full range of activities during the day--enrichment lectures, trivia quizzes, bingo, fitness center, spa treatments, library and movies--there was never a dull moment, and found all of these offerings to be very professional and enjoyable. One of the lecturers on board was Stephen Payne, who served as chief architect of the QM 2 during its design and construction--he was fascinated, and made the connection to the ship very personal. We only tried a couple of the evening shows, and concluded they were barely "average" for cruise entertainment. Music in the various bars was very good--we found that to be the best after-dinner course. Kid Program: There were about 400 children on this crossing, and our two enjoyed the range of day and evening activities offered in "The Zone". They generally tried to finish dinner by 8:30 p.m., and went right to the program. Our son was generally back by 11:00, and our daughter at 12:00 midnight. The teenage kids were very well behaved, had fun, and there was no sign of underage drinking, gambling in the casino or other antics. The Kings Court area and Connections were their main "hang-outs". For the 12-14 age group, activities were centered in "The Zone", and our son would return to the stateroom as soon as the program ended. Overall, different from Royal Caribbean and similar U.S. based lines, but well-suited to the wide international passenger mix on the QM2. Debarkation: Arrival at Red Hook was right on schedule, and departure from the ship was the most organized and relaxed we had ever experienced on any cruise. Our baggage color was called 15 minutes early, and we were through Customs and Immigration within 20 minutes. Overall Assessment: QM2 provides a premium ocean liner experience that was very well suited for family travel during the summer holiday period. We love days at sea on cruises, so eagerly looked forward to the six day crossing. Food and service exceeded many of the reviews on these boards, though that may be a function of expectations--our's were exceeded. Despite all the discussion about "preserving Cunard traditions", we found the atmosphere very relaxed, and the more formal evening environment enjoyable and appreciated by all the passengers we encountered. We will very much treasure having shared this experience as a family--Cunard set the bar very high for future cruises! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
I have always wanted to cross the Atlantic on a classic Ocean liner. There isn't but one choice, so we booked an August Westbound crossing on the QM2. My wife and I wanted to cross instead of fly, both for the history and to ... Read More
I have always wanted to cross the Atlantic on a classic Ocean liner. There isn't but one choice, so we booked an August Westbound crossing on the QM2. My wife and I wanted to cross instead of fly, both for the history and to experience what the timeless luxury of a crossing was like. The Queen Mary 2 and her crew delivered everything we hoped for and more. The embarkation was flawless, we arrived late in the afternoon after touring Stonehenge and Winchester. We were on board and at our cabin, with our luggage within 30 minutes. Our cabin was a sheltered balcony on deck 5. This was the largest cabin that we have had on a cruise, and the sheltered balcony was large and useable even in harsh weather (more latter). Everything was clean and maintenance seemed to be a top priority, as most everything was in great shape for a 4 year old ship. The crew was very attentive, our room steward was very good, and the wait-staff in the Britannia were excellent. We sat at a large table with two other couples. Most passengers were British, although one of our table mate couples were New Zealanders, we developed a wonderful ship-board bond with both couples. We really felt comfortable with our fellow passengers, everyone was on their best behavior, there was a relaxed atmosphere, but everyone who we encountered were so friendly and possessed classic manners. There was never a "cattle car" mentality, and even though there were 2,500 passengers onboard, the ship never seemed crowded, there were never long lines. The food was slightly better quality than Carnival fare. Food was hot, beautifully prepared and served promptly. The weather was not perfect, overcast and rain almost every day. The second day out we ran into a force 11 gale. Everyone was concerned, the waves were up to 30 ft. high. The storm lasted all afternoon and into the night. Welcome to the North Atlantic! The crew performed wonderfully and the big ship plowed on through the gale. The sea was wild, but the Queen was unflappable. I fear I may never experience anything like that storm at sea again, such excitement! This ship is a work of engineering art. Thanks to ships architect, S. Payne, who was on our crossing and was approachable and very interesting. Also, one of the worlds pre-emminate Ocean Liner historians, John Graham and his wife. His lectures and their one act play on the last full day, were fascinating and entertaining. The other activities were mostly fun and entertaining. The planetarium show was very difficult to get tickets for, and we didn't. The ships library was superb, well managed and with a huge selection as well as a great location directly below the bridge. Disembarkation was smooth and uneventful, like it should be. Only a certain melancholy of leaving our newly made friends, crew members and this magnificent ship. We came to Cunard for a different way home from Europe, for the history of the event of crossing, and for the luxury. This we received. What we didn't count on was the deep relaxation and sense of accomplishment that was ours from our six days at sea with the QM2. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing ... Read More
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing came closer to needing to finalize what we going to do, most of our trip had been eliminated for various reason, and the crossing became more of the reason to go to London than anything. After reading alot of the reviews on here we decided to take the crossing from Southampton to NY as we'd get just a little more time on the boat (an extra hour a day). After dealing with some transportation headaches getting to Southampton, and a horrible hotel stay the night before our voyage, we arrived at the dock. Not much to look at there, but you're not expected to. Our boarding time wasn't until 3pm but needed to be out of our hotel room by 11am so we figured we'd hang around the dock and maybe take a stroll into the somewhat nearby city for lunch. Didn't have time for that however as we went to check in and they sent us right on into the boat. That was a very nice little bit. Neither of us were really ready for the photo that was taken right before boarding the ship as we had that horrid night sleep and just disheveled. As soon as we set foot onto the ship it was breathe taking. Really big WOW factor. We were ushered to an elevator by some nice porters, and directed to where our room was when we reached our floor. The room was amazing for the amount of money we paid (I think it was $2k with a non-obstructed balcony for each of us) with a good bottle of champagne chilling in some water. We ha just stepped out to look at the port from out balcony when our porter knocked on the door with our luggage. This really countered a lot of other reviews I had read here. Once unpacked we headed down to the Golden Lion Pub to grab our drink cards (seriously a must for those who drink a lot of soda), which don't count for in room soda's by the way. There we met Sydnee who pretty much became our bartender from that moment on. Great guy with a good attitude. ~Dining~ When time for dinner came, we got dressed up and headed down to the dining room. We opted for the second dinner as we are both late people and the early dinner was just too early for us. That first meal honestly put a proved alot of the negative comments I've read here about the service. My wife and I showed up on time but were forced to wait until our table mates showed up to order. Normally not an issue, but they showed up right before the stopped taking orders (about an hour into dinner). We decided that we wouldn't be doing the dining room again at that point. The food was pretty darn good, but the wait staff was just too over worked. The Kings court was actually one of our favorite places. It was great for breakfast and afternoon tea. Occasionally we had lunch there and one night we did the "Chef's Galley," where they close The Grill and turn it into a demonstration kitchen. You have to make reservations for this, so do it as soon as get in your room. The menu is themed and different every night. My wife and I went to the Indian night, at which point we realized we didn't really care for indian. We tried to make reservations for the next night but it, and every following night, were completely booked. Another option is the Kings Court for dinner where they close off the different sections, except one which still offers buffet style, and they become small restaurants. We made a reservation for one of these but ended up not caring for the menu that night and went on to try the dining room again. This time the service and food were much better. The wait staff had even realized we were gone and apologized for the service the first night. We ended up eating in there every night after that.~Fun~ Being as we are both fairly young, it was somewhat hard to fin stuff to do during the day. This wasn't too much of an issue as we are both late sleepers. When we did wake up we would go to the pub, look through the shops (which are pretty good), go to the planetarium and/or a movie, or just explore the ship (I took about 800 photos) which is massive. The movie experience wasn't great. They were all movies one could get on dvd (and they were DVD's), and they had some issues getting it to play right from time to time. The casino was pretty fun for those that are into that kind of thing. My wife and I had more fun with the coin push machine more than anything. They seemed to have alot of gambling related events which might have been fun if our pocket books were fuller. Either way it was a good place to hang out, have a cigarette, and look out onto the waves. ~Weather~ The weather wasn't too great for outdoor events most of the time. It was cold and rainy and a few days into the journey we hit a terrible storm. Almost the entire ship stayed in their rooms that day. We had severe grade wave that rocked the ship pretty bad. Aside from that, as we were told my many that kind of storm was extremely rare, the sheer speed that the ship travels makes it hard to do much outside. Once we came close to the U.S., the weather warmed up pretty quick and sitting in the pool became reasonable. The theater shows were really much better than I had expected. The rock/opera medley they did was extremely good. The dance review was also great. We both wished they offered more though. The Golden Lion was another great place to hang out. We didn't have much of a chance to visit the other bars though as we had grown too fond of the Golden Lion. Like one of the other reviewers said, the Commodore's Club looks very much like 10 forward from Star Trek TNG. One night we ended up in the pub during a Karaoke night. Initially we were put off by it, as we aren't karaoke people, but a few minutes into staying there, we were singing along with everyone. It was honestly one of the best moments of the voyage. ~Cost~ The cost of onboard things was what we had expected. Generally it was over priced, but so is everything at Disneyland. The stuff at the duty free shop was pretty well priced though, and I regret not getting more stuff. The souvenirs weren't too bad. Buy them later in the cruise and you'll save a few bucks. The photos and dvd from the journey were pretty horrible though. Especially when you know they're just digital photos. If you buy multiple things though you do get a small break. If you are a smoker, the cigarettes are amazingly cheap (especially if you're from NY or CA). The booze was pretty pricey though, though not as baas I had expected. My wife doesn't drink or drive so I rarely have the chance to enjoy a drink while we're out. This was something I had been looking forward to while on the ship. I didn't get to do it too much though because the cost of a drink was a little high, aside from beer which I don't drink. We were worried after reading a lot of the reviews that our budget might be too small for the ship, but we walked away with only a bill of under $100. It can be done cheaper if you don't get the drink cards, $34 each, don't take any sodas from the in room fridge, go up to the purser right away and take off the automatic daily gratuity, don't charge anything to your room, and don't drink. Granted all of that is hard, but it can be done.~Final Thoughts~ All in all we both had the time of our lives. We knew we were going to need the relaxation of the voyage after our few days in London, and were very right on that fact. There was no real rush for anything. Initially I was pretty concerned with the dinner dress code thing, but that's really not that bad. All the staff was really great and friendly. The decor of the ship and rooms was fantastic. We are already planning another trip aboard the QM2 for this summer. The key to enjoying this voyage is to just enjoy it. Not many people today get the chance, or want the chance, to take this historic crossing. If you find something that does not appeal to you, find something else to do. A lot of people, including ourselves, get hung up in one area of the ship and forget that the thing is huge. Explore. As a final thought, don't let the adds fool you. There are plenty of younger people on the boat. We believed that we would be surrounded by 50+ year old people, but that was not the case. It was a good mix of ages, though yes, leaning towards the older crowd. There is a limited amount of purely young person activities though, but that is not this ship's target market. There is an arcade (remember those?), though we never were able to find it. -Jim Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
I had a great back-to-back crossing. I will give you my impressions for different aspects. Every section of my review will include my overall impression and then some details. If you want the long story short, just read the first paragraph ... Read More
I had a great back-to-back crossing. I will give you my impressions for different aspects. Every section of my review will include my overall impression and then some details. If you want the long story short, just read the first paragraph of each section. BACKGROUND My name is Julie (29), I'm from Quebec, Canada and this was my 4th cruise, 2nd solo cruise, first Transatlantic, first on Cunard (others have been with NCL). THE BARGAIN I got a fantastic deal for a solo cruise, less than 2 weeks before the embarkation day. I had been dreaming about a Transatlantic cruise aboard QM2 for many years and I couldn't wait anymore. Since dbf is not into formal nights at all and has never cruised yet; a Transatlantic aboard QM2 didn't seem like the best idea; I was therefore actively trying to find a roommate or a good solo deal (which rarely happens on QM2). There was less than 2 weeks to go and my hopes to find a roommates were not so good. In fact, I was getting discouraged since the good deal I had seen was not even available anymore. There was a good deal on the Eastbound Crossing but it was near 200% single supplement, and I had to add the flight back to this amount; too expensive for me. I was checking a website, one last time, just to know I had tried everything and, for no good reason, I checked the back-to-back crossing solo occupancy rate. There was NO single supplement on an already amazing rate, meaning the back-to-back crossing, would cost me no more than a one-way crossing + airfare (roughly 100$/day). I was ecstatic and I knew I had only a 20-minutes session to complete the booking but I first had to confirm with my boss and my boyfriend than it was ok for them and I did it in that time frame. I learned later than on one segment of this crossing, there was only 1 place left, not 2, because of the third/fourth occupancy that was high that week, it's probably why I had no supplement. I was now booked and I had less than 2 weeks to go! TRAVELLING TO AND FROM NEW YORK I opted for the overnight bus to New York and almost missed I finally made it. I live near Quebec City, QC, Canada and when I take a cruise out of New York, I always take the overnight bus. It's definitely more affordable than the plane and the schedule works better than the train. My boyfriend was supposed to drive me to Montreal (where the direct bus to New York is). He called me saying he couldn't be here on time (for a good reason), my plan B was to take the bus from Quebec City to Montreal and it went well. I had a bit to eat and then proceeded to the bus line (Greyhound asks you to be in line 60 minutes before the departure to secure your seat - this is where is almost went wrong. The line was HUGE and I was crammed to a corner near the entry door (still I was lucky to be inside, lots of people arriving after me had to wait outside). I was hoping to make the 10pm bus but now know this was impossible, there were 2 other busses that night, one at 11pm and the last one at 11:45pm. I got on the last bus but there were less than 10 seats when I got on. Would I have missed this bus, I would have missed the ship! I reserved a seat on the shuttle to get me back to the bus terminal and there, I had to wait another 2 hours in line to come back to Montreal after debarking the ship, but I was not as worried this time since I had no ship to catch. I wrote a message to Greyhound about that, but they never got back to me. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION PROCESS I was at the port quite early (around 9 I think) but better to wait there than the bus station. People were still disembarking. I found the porters who were getting ready for new passengers and they gave me luggage tags (I had not received them since I had booked so late). They were very friendly and helpful. Then I entered the terminal and there was a small waiting room and we were only about 8 people there. Later, they opened the check-in waiting lounge and I got the very first seat. Check-in itself went smoothly and I went to another waiting room. Of course, lots of people had priority so I was not the first onboard. Debarkation was a lot of waiting in lines but I guess it's normal. THE SHIP QM2 is a very elegant ship and its interior looks much better than it appears on the pictures I had seen before the trip. I had an inside room, forward. It was a nice room with plenty of storage space (even with dbf, I think we would have been alright for 12 nights). The shower was way smaller than what I'm used to with NCL but the TV was much bigger (I usually don't watch the TV much but during the storm, it was nice to watch movies on a good size TV). FOOD Food is very subjective, but here is my opinion: Excellent in most cases! I'm not a buffet person and it was a disappointment for me that the dining room was not open for lunch on embarkation day (NCL, which is supposed to be a lower category cruise line does this better, offering you both options). I went to the buffet, it was a little crowded but the Asian fare was very good. I went another time to the buffet for lunch, maybe twice for breakfast and stopped one at tea time, they had a great selection of finger size desserts. The dining room food was excellent. I had planned on trying the other venues but it was so good (and my tablemates were so nice), I went to the DR every night instead. I had their spa selection most evenings but other times I chose among the other items, everything was perfect. I requested steamed vegetables with my meals; otherwise you don't get much. Those were cooked to perfection too. The portions seem a little small but I had an appetizer, sometimes a soup, an entrEe+veggies, and a dessert and I was stuffed every time I left the table. For lunch, I sometimes went to the DR or the pub. I didn't eat a big lunch most days. I also ordered room service a few times, for breakfast; I simply had cereals, fruit and juice. Everything was perfect here again. On NCL, they call you when they are on their way to deliver your food, you have time to prepare the tip, get dressed, etc. I thought it was the same on all ships but they don't do that on QM2, the first time they knocked on the door, I was fully asleep so it took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was, dress in my bathrobe and open the door... and I still had to open the safe to get to my wallet. After apologizing a lot to the poor crew member, I made sure, for next time, to put a wake-up call 15 minutes before the scheduled delivery time! SHIP ONBOARD ACTIVITIES Since I was on a B2B crossing, I had a lot of sea days but I never got bored, there was so many different things to do! In fact, I had to leave out some activities that interested me since there were other things at the same time. I went to both CC get together and it was nice to meet fellow CC. I also showed up for the Young-Adult-Get together and I met some people of my age there (and they offer free mimosa). I recommend it for the 18-29 old crowd. I went to 4 art auctions and I was lucky because they changed the art director in Southampton and each had his/her own style. On the second week, I bought 3 pieces, 2 small, unframed pieces at a very low price and 1 mid-size piece lithograph. The artwork showed up at the house before the anticipated date and I am very happy with the quality of the product. I looked up the price of the same piece on internet and I saved about 25%. I enjoyed tea time in Queen's Room twice, it was a nice experience. The first week, I saw all the planetarium films and I enjoyed them all even if many of them repeated some information contained in the other movies. On the return voyage, I took the Bridge lessons every morning and I enjoyed it so much, I'm now taking lessons here in Quebec City. I highly recommend it to anyone (teenager to elderly) who wants a brain challenge but fun too. Other activities I participated in and enjoyed: - 1 RADA workshop - Hat making for the Ascott Ball - Simply watching the sea go by on deck - Etc. The dance lessons were too crowded and it was going too fast for me, I gave up after 5 minutes each time I tried them. Since I didn't have enough time to do everything, I skipped the lectures since I could listen to most of them on the TV when I was getting ready for dinner. On top of all this, I worked out every day (except storm day), either in the gym or taking a class downstairs (by the way, I think it is great that their fitness class are downstairs because I had a stateroom right under the gym and was worried about vibration but there were none since people were not jumping on top of the cabin). I didn't go to many shows since it's not much my type of thing, but I must say that Rock @ the Opera is not to be missed. At night, I was often in G32 dancing or in the Queen's Room to watch people dancing. The live bands were all very talented and the Caribbean band had the party going every time they played. SPA The spa facilities are very nice. On embarkation day, they have a 20% discount on some treatments, I enjoyed a massage right after we left Southampton. Be advised that the spa is not as private during that day. Of course your treatment room is private but there are tours of the public areas of the spa : - Thalassot herapy pool - Hot tub - Steam Room - Finland sauna - Aromatic sauna - Special jets showers - Ice fountain I didn't mind since I paid less but if you don't want any intruders, I would choose another day. FELLOW PASSENGERS I was expecting an older crowd but it was not at all. There were many teenagers, lots of young couples and families too. I heard that the Westbound trip was marketed as "kids sail free" it's probably the reason why. Before to even know my tablemates, I asked the Maitre D' to change table of the next week (because I had to repeat my formal dresses, and didn't want them to know). This was a mistake, my tablemates, mostly solo travelers + an older couple, were all fantastic, I was sad to leave them at the end of the first segment and half of them were taking the trip back to New York. But it's ok, I met another group of nice people the following week, but I must admit it was not the same as the first table where we almost had a party going every night. SHIP OFFICERS/CREW The ship officers and crew members were mostly excellent. At each CC get together, we had senior officers and also, Julie, the Captain's wife, and the Captain himself for a short speech at the end of the meeting. I find this extraordinary and it was fascinating. One of my few disappointments about this cruise was that we were supposed to have an officer (the Staff Captain, who is young and very cute too!!!!) at our table one night (we had a card stating "guest" in front of his place) but he never showed up. I talked to him later and he said it was not on his duty assignment that week and he sent a bottle of wine one night. I'm not saying it's his fault but it's not fun to expect such a nice treatment and then having it removed. I did mention it to the Food & Beverage Manager at the next CC meeting. I told him not to have his staff put the little card on the table before making sure someone would show up. He said he would look into it and I also got an invitation at his table one night, I think it was a very nice touch from him and I think all people at the table had a great evening. I found my room steward and both sets of dining room staff simply perfect! Some bartenders were a little pushy sometimes though or rolled their eyes if you skipped a drink twice in a row (hey, I won't feel any obligation to drink more than I want to when I already paid to be on the ship). SOUTHAMPTON I was happy, the weather was very nice and the Captain said it should remain the same all day. I debarked early in the morning and walked to the Hythe Ferry. It's about a 20 minutes' walk. The ferry isn't expensive and it's a nice way to get good pictures of the ship (in the port of New York or Southampton, you cannot get a good picture). After, I was planning to do a free guided walk that the city offers but I got there 15 minutes late so I started to explore by myself. Luckily, I found the tour in route and joined them. It was supposed to be a 90-minutes tour but it lasted over 2.5 hours. It was very interesting and highly informative but the weather had changed, the wind was awful and cold rain was pouring. At least, I had brought a light jacket with hood + a baseball cap but I still had my sandals on. I found a taxi at the ferry station instead of walking back (I was freezing). STORM AND POWER FAILURE ENCOUNTERED! On the Westbound crossing, we encountered two special "events". One night, all Power was lost. No engine were running, we were drifting at sea and only emergency power was on, no TV, no regular lighting, nothing. This lasted for about an hour. I knew it was probably not a big problem but I was getting ready for the worst., I prepared a bag of essential goods (towels in a big Ziploc bag), bottled water and sodas, chocolate pillows and a box of cereals I had not eaten from that morning room service, first aid kit, etc.). I had also prepared my warmer clothes. Of course, I didn't need any of this but doing something was keeping me from stressing from the situation. When the power came back and I heard the ship moving, I went back to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, we had power for normal hotel operations but we were not moving. The Captain informed us at 9 am that they were researching what caused the initial problem and had to stop the engines for this reason. We gained power back late in the morning. We were already many hours behind schedule and we encountered a big storm the following day. The seas were so rough, I saw a cart rolling in the hallway and a vase broke on the floor. It was interesting to watch but I started feeling sick and went back to my cabin for all the afternoon. Sitting down on the mattress was the only position I could endure, as soon as I lay down or stood up, I felt very bad. I heard an officer say he checked the data and QM2 had been through only 3 storms of that nature since it debut. It was a real experience but I was glad when it ended (the storm, not the cruise). CONCLUSION This Transatlantic crossing was a dream come true for me and I'm sure I'll always remember it. Since Cunard is more expensive, I don't think I will go very often but I might if I find another good deal like this one. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
My partner and I booked a Princess Grill Suite for the "Splendors of Fall" Cruise in September of 2007 which had ports of call from NYC to Quebec City. By good fortune our travel agent was able to get us an up-grade to a ... Read More
My partner and I booked a Princess Grill Suite for the "Splendors of Fall" Cruise in September of 2007 which had ports of call from NYC to Quebec City. By good fortune our travel agent was able to get us an up-grade to a Queen's Grill Suite, #9037. We drove to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, unloaded bags with the help of porters, parked the car, went through security, checked in, never waited in any line, within ½ hour of arriving and parking the car we boarded the ship. The efficiency and ease of boarding the ship was remarkable. Neither of us had ever taken a cruise prior to this. We considered a cruise for years, but we usually decided against it for fear of feeling captive, cramped, or bored with the experience or food after a day or two. The enormous size of the ship is awe-inspiring, and the small number of people around us while boarding was encouraging. We probably wouldn't be cramped on this ship. We received a warm welcome and made our way to the suite. The suite was surprisingly big; King-sized bed arrangement; big bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub and very nice toiletries; Bar area, and refrigerator full of beer, soda and water. There was a huge walk-in closet. Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries were on the coffee table. It was a sunny day with a big view of Manhattan and Staten Island over the balcony. The suite was more than adequate in size and comfort; it was equal to some five star hotels. Two personable butlers introduced themselves and asked us to call them if we were in need of service. Bags were on the way, so we went to lunch. The maitre d' of Queen's Grill assigned us a table for two near the windows at the stern of the ship. We were happy to have a table for two, as that is what we requested. The food was excellent from the first meal to the last. We never ate anywhere else, because we could have anything that any other eatery was serving if we asked for it. There were ample choices of delicious and decadent things like sweet breads, caviar, foie gras, or ceviche, for example. All of the mains were delicious and ranged from fancy international dishes to meat and potato standards including well prepared vegetables. Deserts were a real treat. The restaurant manager would bring the cart for flambEs such as Crepes Suzette. There was also a cheese cart that had many varieties of cheese and grapes, figs, and jam. This was in addition to a wide variety of other deserts on the menu. Our servers were friendly, professional and efficient. They perfectly timed the cocktail prior to any food arriving. The wine steward was helpful and knowledgeable quickly studied our habits which made ordering and refreshing drinks easy. Also he ran a tab for a few days at a time so we didn't have to sign for drinks too often, which was nice. Public spaces were very nice. We enjoyed bingo in the Queen's Room on the sea days; I attended interesting lectures when they were offered. The Admirals Club was comfortable and drinks were especially good here. Harp and piano music were in the Grand Lobby most evenings. Formal dress was fun to do and to observe, and a real diversion from the dull day-to-day of life off the ship. Ports of call were nice, disembarkation was orderly and excursions were well planned. I stayed aboard ship at Newport, RI, and in Bar Harbor, ME; as I have already seen those towns. I had the ship to myself and a few others who stayed aboard. The pool was refreshing in September, the weather was great. It was nice to have a deck of chairs for Queen's Grill sunbathers, because there were never too many people on the deck or waiting for the Jacuzzi. Another perk of the Queen's Grill suite was the beer in the refrigerator. I was drinking Heineken beer from the suite's refrigerator every day while relaxing on the steamer chair of the balcony. I was beginning to worry about the bill for all of these beers but it never showed up on the accounting. Toward the end of the cruise, I learned that everything in that refrigerator was free. The butlers would replace every beer I took with one or two more, so by the end of the trip the refrigerator looked like one I had in college - full of beer. So much beer, that I couldn't possibly drink it all...however hard I tried. The only "problem" I encountered aboard was the indigestion I suffered from eating and drinking like a glutton. Full English breakfasts, then three course lunches then a plate of canapEs of caviar and liver mouse delivered to the room before dinner, then four course dinners with wine, sometimes an afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream, an exotic drink here and there, the beer in the suite. It was the QM2's mission to turn me into a Henry the 8th-type. The concierge lounge was right across the hall, so I was often in there eating tea sandwiches and whatever else was being offered. I took full advantage of the food and drink options. A special word about Golden Lion Pub.- It looks and feels like a real pub It may be even more authentic than one in London at this time because you can still smoke in there if you wish. People-watching was great fun - plenty of oldsters. Including Art Linkletter who was amazingly entertaining and with-it at 95 years old, thought a bit sleepy at the dinner table. It was fun to listen to the conversation of tables of six and eight. People were polite to one another, but there were some real conversation dominators and dominatrixes. And there were some really demanding widow-types who displayed their entitlement issues and spoiled ways to the poor servers who were doing their best to accommodate them. Nothing too egregious; it was mostly amusing. Moreover, most were very nice old people recounting their children's lives and theirs to one another. A good number of 50th wedding anniversaries were celebrated. Dinner was always a good time to observe plastic-surgerized, dolled-up women in pricey jewelry and dresses and their tired looking husbands. We had such a great time that we booked the same suite for the August 8, 2008 transatlantic from NYC. This time was even better. We took Amtrak's Metroliner from Baltimore to NYC, taxi to the ship; again we were on the ship within ½ hour. We did a lot of eating and drinking and relaxing just like the New England cruise. Every day was a sea day, so the ship was the main attraction. The six days went too quickly, no jet lag once in the U.K. I never felt captive, cramped, or bored. I'm hooked on the QM2. I wish I were there right now. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
For this, my first voyage on QV, I had booked a Princess Grade suite for the twelve day cruise and was upgraded to the Queens Grill category. Perhaps it was because we made a Transatlantic crossing on QM2, but nevertheless it was a ... Read More
For this, my first voyage on QV, I had booked a Princess Grade suite for the twelve day cruise and was upgraded to the Queens Grill category. Perhaps it was because we made a Transatlantic crossing on QM2, but nevertheless it was a delightful surprise. Having travelled frequently on QE2 I had found QM2 rather large and over-decorated for my taste, but with Queen Victoria, Cunard and its parent company have hit the nail on the head. Unlike some reviewers I did not find anything "cheap" onboard but rather found it to be a fitting successor to QE2 in both size and ambience. Our suite had complete privacy, our butler was discrete and ensured that everything needed was present, even exchanging the complimentary bar contents for a preferred wine. There were absolutely no complaints about the accommodation or service. I would recommend Queen Victoria to anyone having the funds to pay for it. Dining was a delight although in retrospect I would have rather had a smaller table since out table companions were rarely present when we chose to eat; two people sitting at a table for eight can be rather daunting! Ordering 'off-the-menu' for a birthday celebration, Lobster Thermidor was not a problem - and incidentally, one of the best versions we have had. Lunches and dinners were as good as anything on land with an outstanding variety; perhaps not Michelin 3 Star, but as good as any fine restaurant in London or Los Angeles. Portions were just right for us although some larger passengers may have felt they were small. Only on one morning did we take breakfast in our suite and that was not in the least "greasy" as another reviewer puts it. Because we are late risers, we frequently took breakfast in the Lido which we found to be very good and a big improvement on QM2's "Kings Court". Teatime in the Grill's lounge was, for the most part, splendid, although I do wish that sandwiches could be made with really thin bread. But not even The Ritz can do that today, so perhaps it's widespread. Pastries and tea itself were fine and there was always a server at hand to bring more as required. The lounge itself is a delight; clubby, quiet and understated elegance with a staff which was ever cheerful - but never over-familiar. Unfortunately, the Patio area was rather windy, so that precluded sitting out there with a drink in the evening. Am attractive spot nevertheless. We had previously dined in the Todd English restaurant on QM2, and since the menu appeared to be identical, did not do so on QV, but it's location seemed to me to be more appropriate. Incidentally, I thought the extra-tariff was worth every penny when on QM2, but in any case, we had a very good dining experience in the Grill. The main public rooms seemed very attractive, the ballroom smaller than QM2, but with an upper level from which one could observe those dancing. The Golden Lion was far more 'pubby' than either QE2 or QM2 and succeeded well on that score. However, since we were in Q class, there was little need to use such facilities - however, it is anticipated that next time we shall be in a much lower grade and will then have a better feel for them. Dining in Britannia on QM2 has always been more than acceptable and I anticipate no less on QV. Entertainment was splendid, the Royal Court Theatre being a remarkable simulacrum of an older West End Theatre. The major productions were excellent and although we did not attend every evening, what we did see was first class. Some people took advantage of the bookable 'boxes' with Champagne, but that was not necessary for full enjoyment. Excursions - as always, just a bit over-priced, but in each port there was sufficient time to see the sights, get the T-shirt and any other souvenirs! The approach to Venice was remarkable in itself because much of its glory could be seen so much better from the upper decks than would otherwise be the case. Getting us to St Mark's Square was no problem and having visited before, we did not avail ourselves of any organized tours. The other ports en route were as fine, although I chose to remain onboard at Dubrovnik while my companion went ashore. My only complaint was and is the amount of junky jewelry, perfume and other assorted bargains which was always "on sale" along with the ridiculous art auctions. No doubt they bring in extra revenue, but for a luxury ship they are most out of place. Happily, in the Grills area there was no such thing, but if one decided to go elsewhere, a veritable bazaar greeted on along every public space. All-in-all, our experience was very positive. It is easy to complain about the price of drinks or the largely "foreign" staff, but that's how the entire industry is today. Thirty years ago on QE2, all the crew and wait-staff were British and drinks far less expensive than on land, there being no duty on them. Today that duty goes into the pockets of the shipping line and makes the bottom line easier to reach. However, that is the way of the modern cruise industry and one must accept it. I agree about complaints noting that a space for a tip was left in addition to the 15% service charge, but it can of course be ignored. Besides such minor quibbles we had a splendid voyage and with the right itinerary, would definitely choose Queen Victoria again. She is a fitting successor to QE2. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Well we took the plunge, cruising something we have discussed for ages but always said later on. After much research we decided on the East-Bound Trans-Atlantic crossing, main reasons...found a very good fly/stay/cruise package at a ... Read More
Well we took the plunge, cruising something we have discussed for ages but always said later on. After much research we decided on the East-Bound Trans-Atlantic crossing, main reasons...found a very good fly/stay/cruise package at a great price. Also the Atlantic one place guaranteed not to get a Blackberry signal...so the bliss of complete relaxation. We did approach the trip with some trepidation, because of the formal aspect but in some ways this made the trip somewhat special the chance to dress up and not look out of place. One thing we did do was to use the White Star Service and sent all our formal attire so that it was awaiting us in our cabin when we boarded, this meant we had to drag very little with us on the flights over. Yes quite expensive but well worth the cost. Embarkation in Brooklyn was very efficient as expected and from arrival at the terminal to cabin took about 30 mins total. The cabin was on deck 6 and had a good sea view. The cabin was roomy and well enough appointed to cater for the two of us. A half bottle of sparkling wine gratis to welcome us. There was plenty of room for all storage. Our Cabin Steward Greg was superb, he was attentive, nothing too much trouble and un-obtrusive. At all times we found all staff extremely polite. QM2...we found exceeded our expectations and is appointed to 5 * standard in all areas. Food was to a high standard and to be truthful better than we were expecting. We took late sitting in the Britannia Restaurant, and found that at no times were we rushed, and still had plenty of time to attend the myriad of entertainment provided. Staff in the restaurant were again superb,Richard our waiter for the duration was outstanding. In general, we found plenty to do during the 6 day crossing, Planetarium, Cinema,show, performance from the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Quartet. In fact you could do as much or as little as you want. Music venues and choices diverse, Disco, Big Band, Jazz, super Caribbean Band "Vybes" you requested it the played it. Bars plenty of choice. We didn't find the formality a problem, 2 informal nights (Jacket no tie) 3 formal night (Black Tie) 1 semi formal (Jacket + tie) in fact it was nice to dress up. All in all a wonderful experience, we are already discussing repeating this trip in 2009, hopefully friends will accompany us...and I can see why people become Cunard "Junkies" Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Hurricane Kyle may have flustered the good Queen, but the Category 2 storm couldn't keep her down. It did however, cause a one-day departure delay, necessitating removal of Portland and half of our Boston ports of call. To the ... Read More
Hurricane Kyle may have flustered the good Queen, but the Category 2 storm couldn't keep her down. It did however, cause a one-day departure delay, necessitating removal of Portland and half of our Boston ports of call. To the company's credit, the Commodore kept passengers informed, and we all understood the need to avoid turbulent waters before commencing our 7-day vacation on this grand dame of the seas. EMBARKATION: The boarding process presented one of the few notable let-downs. Upon taxi arrival at the Brooklyn Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, a luggage handler wearing jeans and a yellow union shirt indicated he could take our bags. He bore no cruiseline identification, so we didn't know if he was simply working independently (presumably for tips) or represented the cruiseline. So although awkward, we declined his offer and continued with our bags towards the terminal entrance. We soon spotted uniformed Cunard agents, but they were only there to tell us where to go and which line to use. Nobody indicated where to leave our bags, nor offered a hand, so we proceeded to the check-in counter where it became evident we could take our bags directly on board. In our estimation, the first customer-contact is essential to setting the tone of any trip. We'd suggest large, clearly marked signs with directions, and white-gloved, uniformed Cunard agents to greet each arriving group of passengers. INTERIOR: Our experience changed for the better, once on board. Cunard representatives flanked our entrance, with one offering to escort us to our room. We respectfully declined, however, as we found it easy to navigate with the posted deck configuration signs. The warm welcome continued as we entered our Q6 stateroom suite. In addition to the cabin steward, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our butler for the week who had a complimentary chilled Champaign and strawberries awaiting us. A note about the suites - they include balconies, but most on Deck 9 overlook large lifeboats directly below. We fortunately booked a suite near the rear of the ship (by Staircase "D"), without lifeboats, enabling an unencumbered view of ocean and the decks below. Also, the aft location meant we could enjoy relative quietude, without creaking chains and ropes from the lifeboats and blasts from the ship's forward horns. Even during fog when the horns sounded every four or five minutes, we were able to sleep comfortably. The suite was a good choice for the two of us, being markedly larger at 506 sq ft, versus 381 sq ft and less for junior suites and other staterooms. We enjoyed a roomy sitting area with couch, desk, and chair, plus a coffee table that could raise to allow in-room dining. An adjacent bar area held a small, fully-stocked, and complementary refrigerator, plus beautifully lighted overhead glass cabinetry, filled with an assortment of cocktail glasses. The sleeping area featured a walk-in closet, complete with deep drawers and plenty of hangers. Loads of counter space and vanity storage complemented a jetted tub in our marbled bathroom. A minor recommendation - we would've enjoyed a map in the room to reference while we figured out each day's activities. FOOD: Because we were suite guests, the staff assigned us to the upscale Queen's Grill, a smaller and quieter private dining venue, as compared to the Britannia dining room and King's Court buffet. We were pleased to discover Cunard successfully merged the best of assigned seating with "freestyle" dining. We had a table for two by a window with our name on it the entire cruise. We were free to show up during the posted dining hours whenever we chose, and they would show us to our table, always ready to go. The china consisted of a special pattern used only in the Queens Grille, and our food was served with grace and style. The only minor recommendation would be to offer a choice of a black cloth napkin, because the white could shed on black clothing. Otherwise, we couldn't have been happier with the quality, selection, and presentation of food and the restaurant experience truly one of the highlights of our trip. ITINERARY: Our ports, consisting of Halifax, St. John, Boston, and Newport, stacked up favorably with other cruise lines serving the area. While we didn't book any excursions, we found either walking or renting a car easy and convenient. In Halifax, the seafood chowder at "Murphy's" was the best we've ever eaten (and we sample many). St. John boasted an attractive port with fireworks in the evening. Newport's vistas comprised the best for this trip and of course, Boston offered the widest variety of places to see. Unfortunately, with the removal of Portland from our itinerary, our shortened stay in Boston provided the first opportunity on return from Canada for non-American passengers to undergo immigration. Apparently, the Boston officials sent only six immigration agents, rather than the 16 expected in Portland. Together with less then ideal organization on Cunard's part, departing passengers experiences up to 2-hour logjams getting off the ship. Being Americans, we could skip the tight security check and exited the ship quickly, and without incident. ENTERTAINMENT: We didn't partake of many entertainment offerings, primarily restricting ourselves to solo performers (piano and harp), a string quartet, and a poetry reading. They were all quite enjoyable and of high quality - definitely recommended. OTHER: - Gymnasium: We frequently utilized the spacious gym, which featured free weights, fitness machines, and a many aerobic options. - Spa: We scheduled one spa treatment (a daily special of a mud-pack facial with algae) and found it to be on par with other premium spas, if perhaps a little pricey. - Concierge Lounge: Our deck offered a special Queen's Grille guest lounge with newspapers, coffee/tea, cookies/sandwiches, and concierge agents. We enjoyed taking breaks there. - TV/Video: Cunard's TV service indicated On-Demand Movies were available, but the TV screen guide said "Unavailable." We figured it'd be temporary, but after two nights, we called the Purser's Office, which informed us it hadn't been working for some time. Disappointed, we made do with a couple of the regular movie channels, before accidentally discovering videos available through the concierge lounge for which a DVD player had to be installed. - Cruise ride: For a large ship with state-of-the-art stabilization control, we experienced more ship's movement than expected while at sea. However, others commented on the ship's smoothness, so we may have simply been sensitive to the North Atlantic's choppier waters, as compared to our prior cruises in the Caribbean. OVERALL: The QM2 provided our first exposure to 5-star cruising. In general, it delivered admirably. The regal ship was spotless and in great condition. The crew always appeared in full formal dress, performed well, and stayed "in character" the entire time. The food was top-notch in all the restaurants. And thankfully, "upselling" was kept to a minimum. While not inexpensive, the value was evident. Cunard's QM2 ocean liner provided a stately and refined experience a refreshing departure from mainstream cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Altogether, the Grills experience is a smashing success and the Queen Victoria a fitting successor to the QE2 (insofar as the latter served partly as a cruise ship) and sister to the Queen Mary 2 (which best serves as the purpose-built ... Read More
Altogether, the Grills experience is a smashing success and the Queen Victoria a fitting successor to the QE2 (insofar as the latter served partly as a cruise ship) and sister to the Queen Mary 2 (which best serves as the purpose-built liner she is). Embarkation: Upon arrival at the port of Civitavecchia, the QV reveals herself as quite a lot better-looking than her Holland America Vista class hull-mates, particularly up top: the single sculpted funnel, the Grill restaurants cantilevered over the lower decks, unmistakable Cunard livery, and the overall symmetry of the composition, are quite appealing. Her greater length is also in her favor. The less said about her rear end the better. The pier lounge was comfortable and pre-boarding for Grill guests and Platinum and Diamond World Club members was polite and speedy. Public Spaces: The interior is absolutely stunning: lush, inviting, well-scaled, well-executed, sunny, warm and dignified. It is fruitless to compare her directly with the QM2 as the as the latter is an ocean liner and the QV is a cruise ship. They each serve their purposes magnificently. The level of detail on the QV is exacting and the execution very beautiful. Passenger flow is excellent, particularly surprising considering that the QV lacks the grand central axial promenades of the QM2. In fact, though smaller than the QM2's Queen's Room, that on the QV is, I feel, a more welcoming space: better situated in its integration with the other public rooms and more finely-detailed in its decor. The QV ballroom plays more the part in shipboard life that the Grand Lounge did on the QE2 rather than being a rather independent venue as is the QM2 Queen's Room. The elements of Victoriana in the decoration are kept in check. The designers make appealing reference to the style of the namesake Queen's Osborne House on the Isle of Wight but, fortunately by contemporary standards of taste, refrain from dripping the place with ornament. Truly, the extreme, even ponderous and excessive stylings of Osborne House would be a bit too much to take over the length of a cruise - the eyes would tire. Stairwells are decorated with original or reproduction paintings of Cunard vessels through the centuries: marvelous. This treatment is more consistent and appealing than the artworks in the QM2 stairwells which are, in places, peculiar and inappropriate. The public spaces were always uncrowded, particularly impressive for the Queen's Room as it is often impossible to get a seat there on the QM2. The lighting was also more pleasing in the QV's ballroom than that in the QM2's. The QV, with great and much-appreciated success, segregates the commercial (revenue-generating) enterprises onboard from the rest of shipboard life. To wit: to proceed to an evening of dancing on the QM2: one passes through the grand lobby marred by commercial activity (the shops and usually some dreadful folding tables overflowing with trinkets and other rubbish outside of the shop doors), runs the gauntlet of numerous make-shift photo-shoot set-ups by the ship photographers in the otherwise grand corridors, then on to the equally distasteful options of suffering (depending on the choice of port or starboard route) either the haphazard presentation of "art" auction items or the overpriced shipboard souvenir photo displays. Far, far from ideal. The QV has addressed all these failings. On QV, one proceeds happily and peacefully from dinner or a lounge (wonderful rendition of the Commodore Club aboard) to the ballroom or other entertainment without any crass assaults on one's sensibilities. The commercial activities are cordoned-off in the "Royal Arcade" instead - a great success all around. Passenger cabin alleyways are oddly bereft of any decoration whatsoever - looking, by any measure, as if the budget ran out. Q3 Penthouse Suite: We absolutely loved our suite. Coming from New York City, it was truly a grand size for us (perhaps 700 square fee): two very large writing tables, living room, enormous granite wet bar, bedroom which could be cordoned-off from the living room by heavy drapery, dressing area, walk-in closet, enormous chest of drawers, marble bathroom in two parts separated by a door: the first part with glass stall shower and separate whirlpool tub, the second part with sink and toilet. In addition to the floor-to-ceiling glass surrounding the glass door to the large terrace, the suite enjoys a picture window bedside. Colors are muted and tasteful, artwork on the walls is pleasant, and furnishing quality is high. The terrace offers two large recliners and foot rests and a very large table. Space is ample. We had asked that one of the 32" flat panel televisions be removed because it is unsightly and unnecessary as an additional panel is installed on the wall somewhat opposite the bed. In place of the second panel our excellent travel agent had placed a Bon Voyage bouquet. Cunard provided lovely orchids in the bathroom and writing desks as well as another arrangement on the bar. Champagne and fresh fruit were additional welcomes. Our butler soon after introduced himself. Cheerful, impeccably turned-out, intelligent, and well-trained, he proved a great asset to us. Ever, it seemed, on-call and immediately-responsive, he took extremely good care of us. He has an assistant to clean and perform other tasks. I asked for Campari to be stocked in our bar along with fresh limes. He attended to this request right away although Campari is not on the list of in-room bar items. Smoking: We were thrilled never to smell smoke save for one brief moment outside the casino. This is an important improvement over the QM2 where the Chart Room is effectively off-limits to non-smokers because of the stench as is Sir Samuel's. The G32 nightclub on QM2 is also marred by the smoking which is allowed on the upper story. On QV we could breath freely and enjoy all the public rooms. Musak: As other reviewers have noted, the open decks suffer from pervasive, pernicious, painful, perfidious background "music." As we were Grill passengers, we could escape this in the blessed peace of the Upper Grills Terrace. Why would Cunard subject non-Grill passengers to this noise? Is it to punish them for failing to book in the Grills? Thankfully, there are no loudspeaker announcements in the stateroom. I would never set foot on a ship which had them. Dancing: The Queen's Room orchestra was in good form playing strict tempo dance music (thank goodness), even "calling out" the dance for those in need (e.g., "and now, a cha-cha"). This is especially helpful in the smooth dances as it improves flow on the dance floor. Guests were generally polite on the dance floor (allowing a couple their "spot" in the spot dances and following the line of dance in the traveling dances). Unfortunately, this atmosphere was ruined on a number of occasions by a group of eight extremely-amateur but aggressively-trained persons who dominated the floor, running down anyone "in the way" during their hideously-executed competition dance routines. After being nearly knocked down three times within minutes (intentionally, it seemed), we were pleased to note that one of the gentlemen hosts took control of the situation by tapping one of the offenders on the shoulder and causing him and his partner to leave the floor. The Hemispheres disco is a much more welcoming space than is the G32 on QM2. Hemispheres is semi-circular with floor to ceiling windows and a dance floor not interrupted by a supporting column as is G32's. Unfortunately, the large chrome inlays in the floor are not entirely flush with the wood which poses a tripping hazard to the ladies in heels. This must be addressed in the first refit. Theater: Indeed, this is the most beautiful of its kind at sea, I am sure; would that there were a production and talent worthy of it. Instead, the ghastly choreography we glimpsed on the video of a performance and the, shall we say, "sounds" which emanated therefrom were enough to keep us away. Queens Grill Lounge: This amenity is the QV's greatest achievement: meeting friends for cocktails and appetizers there before dinner, watching the sunset, settling into one of the lovely couches or club chairs, is one of the pinnacle pleasures of refined society. This is true not only by virtue of the beauty of the room, its lovely stained glass illuminated dome ceiling, the orchids, the comfortable arrangement of tables, the wall decorations. Rather, it is that the space, opening as it does in a semi-circle, welcomes passengers, facilitates socializing, leaves no-one out. It is one of those special places which foster the social grace of which the passengers, as is our past experience on Cunard, have a surfeit: Gentlemen rise when ladies arrive, conversation is polite and at appropriate volume. Simply, we enjoy each other's company with conviviality and treat our shipmates, crew and officers with mutual and happy respect. Queen's Grill Restaurant: Making one's way at one's leisure from the lounge to the winged grill dining rooms one is pressed not to feel giddy with pleasure as these are easily the most beautiful dining rooms afloat. Quite in contrast to the rather unfortunate narrow rectilinear spaces on the QM2 which are partially-enshrouded by the outside promenade deck, the Grills on the QV are, like the Grills lounge, welcoming semi-circles giving onto floor-to-ceiling windows cantilevered over the superstructure and therefore providing an expanse of sea and sky views. The severity of so much glass is softened by delicate semi-transparent balloon shades along the tops of the windows. More fine illuminated stained glass and "peacock alley" artwork lend a sense of tasteful celebration to the room. Service exceeded our expectations (which were extremely-high). The headwaiter, Ismael, could not do enough for each table. No request was denied. We asked for an Indian feast for one night and he presented a series of wonderful dishes: lamb, fish, and chicken curries, sauteed cauliflower, naan, raita, papadams, daals, etc. He actually solicited suggestions regarding what the chef might prepare for us. I developed quite a taste for pheasant, quail, and duck. Filleting of the Dover sole tableside he accomplished with special speed and finesse. Very good (probably United States origin) sturgeon caviar was available nightly for the asking. Ismael was tableside nearly every night completing the preparation of a rack of lamb (perfectly rose in the center with a nice crust and served at the perfect temperature), fillet mignon, or one of many flambe desserts - all truly excellent. Trout Almondine? of course. Okra? (for the Indian dinner) naturally. Our waiter and assistant waiter were also superb. Shirred eggs with caviar for breakfast: What a way to begin the day. Upper Grills Terrace: This area is a resounding success. Here, at the top of the ship, one can enjoy the pleasures of the fresh air, (our preferred choice of comfortably-shaded) sun, panoramic views, much more comfortable and well-padded loungers than those on the lower decks, and blissful quiet. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the silence. There is no musak piped onto the Upper Grills Terrace. Bravo, Cunard. Also, where, on the QM2, the Queen's Grill terrace is a narrow, rather small space aft of the stacks and therefore is often subject to the foul odor of partially-combusted diesel fuel and some soot, the QV Upper Grill terrace is forward of the stack and so the air is fresh. Further, the QV terrace is enormous (more like deck 13 on the QM2 than like the grills terrace on the QM2) with a great distinction: where deck 13 on the QM2 is a wasteland with regard to service, on QV, the deck attendants are much in evidence and provide wonderful pampering: they set you up exactly where you want, etc. Further, once, after I had dozed off and awakened just nearly having formed the thought that I was slightly hot, a kind attendant appeared at that moment offering, with tongs, a hand towel which had been soaked in ice water and which bore a delicate scent of lavender and lemon. An aesthete defines his life by such moments. Room Service: Our butler proved exemplary: as is our custom, we left polite notes for him in the beginning in which we stated our preferences and named our pleasures. Service staff are not mind-readers, after all. I believe many of the situations which give rise to complaints posted on these boards could easily have been avoided if the passenger had articulated his or her expectations to the steward or waitstaff at the time. He fulfilled every request promptly and properly, from posting our mail to watering the cut flowers to delivering the unnecessary (but appreciated) canapes before dinner (which preceded the further canapes in the lounge before dinner), scattering rose petals in an artful pattern on the bed after he turned it down on our anniversary evening, leaving a freshly-baked tuille cookie-basket filled with chocolate truffles as a goodnight treat, the list goes on. . .His shining performance was in the service of food: we availed ourselves of breakfasts, some lunches, and a dinner in the room (our excuse: a long hot day of sightseeing). Each meal he plated by the course and offered either on the terrace or in the living room The dinner, especially, was a showstopper: He presented the appetizers and then asked at what interval we would like the main course to be presented. At the appointed time, he arrived to clear the appetizer plates and served the main courses. Mine was a lobster tail Thermador: the best lobster I have ever eaten: a large and flavorful specimen from Maine, according to the headwaiter, served perfectly cooked and at perfect temperature. I simply cannot imagine how the staff accomplished this. Some odd lapses: orders for scrambled eggs in the room bring a substance based on powder or squeezed from a plastic bag - something one would get in hospital. There is no excuse for that in Queen's Grill class. Indeed, scrambled eggs in the Queen's Grill restaurant itself were properly prepared. Similarly, the juices (grapefruit or orange) were from a tin, concentrate, or powder where fresh-squeezed should be the order of the day. This was true even in the Queen's Grill itself: for shame. Also, there was a dearth of fine dark chocolate aboard. The chocolate sauce on the profiteroles was excessively-sweet and, though darkly-colored (as was the "bitter" chocolate ice-cream) had barely a hint of chocolate flavor. I found this disappointing in light of the generous provisioning of caviar. Really, more gourmet-quality chocolate should be on offer - and I did ask. The bread also, though fresh, plentiful, and competently-prepared, was not artisan-quality and should be better. Spa: The spa's defining feature is its floor-to-ceiling windows giving onto the sea. This was much more pleasant than the Canyon Ranch Spa on QM2 which is almost entirely interior. On QV, heated loungers (chaises clad in glass tiles and heated from within) are reclined at an extremely comfortable angle with great sea views. Thoughtfully, as one wants both to retain a neutral spine while on the loungers and also enjoy the sparkling of sunlight on the water, the ceiling features a semi-reflective surface so that one can enjoy both at the same time. Well done. The spa was never overcrowded, the result, I believe, of the charge of approximately $ 100/week per passenger to access it. I also enjoyed the "dry flotation ritual" spa treatment. Britannia Restaurant: Our sole visit there was to have breakfast with friends. Aside from the pleasure of their company, the experience was unfortunate. The room, though pleasing upon entering it, reveals itself as much more of a clamorous food-hall than the Britannia on the QM2. Further, the food, though described in the same way as it is on the Grills menu, was carelessly prepared and plated and served with haste and indifference by beleaguered staff with limited command of English. True, we were engaged in delightful conversation and lost track of time after we finished eating but never before have I had the napkin wordlessly snatched from my lap and the tablecloth half-removed from the table to indicate, in no uncertain terms, that we, the passengers, were in the crew's way! Quibbles: The outer decks are, with the exception of a few stairs and a "lookout" section atop the Upper Grills Terrace, clad in an awful linoleum-type surface which gives the decks the aspect of a freighter. The material is not up to the task as it is already worn in places where there is a high volume of foot traffic and there are also already chips, cracks and divots. How will these be properly repaired? Disgraceful. The only solution is to install proper teak decking (as even the QV's Holland America Vista Class hull sister ships enjoy). Also, the the outdoor "promenade" (deck three) is appalling: narrow, vacant, filled with sharp turns, not running around the entire ship, each aspect of the view blocked at least partially by equipment in the way. . .altogether a very sad space. What a contrast to the greatest promenade deck ever at sea: that on the QM2. Also missing from QV is the passengers' viewing area behind the bridge. There, on QM2, I have spent much time happily watching the officers' activity as they run the ship. I had hoped it could be one of the spaces that define the new, young, Cunard fleet. Alas, it is not to be. In sum: The Queen Victoria is a smashing success for Grill passengers: make your wishes politely known and I cannot imagine you would be dissatisfied. She is beautifully turned-out (as are the friendly passengers) and well-staffed. I would not recommend traveling in the Britannia class on this ship. Mind you, I am far from a snob: in four of my five crossings on QE2 I traveled on Deck 5 (though long, long ago), on the France in Cabin Class and on my six sailings on the QM2 we have traveled Britannia (later designated "Britannia Club") Class. The QM2 does not offer Grills passengers an experience different in kind from that offered Britannia passengers. In fact, the Britannia Club dining room is much nicer than the Grills, in my opinion, on QM2 and the Grills Lounge is unprepossessing on QM2. The QV experience is different in kind and greatly-enhanced in the Grills. Though Cunard insists on calling her a "liner," the Queen Victoria assuredly is not one. Instead of the primordial throb of the QM2 engines and the assured high-speed slicing of the bow through all seas, one might be tickled, if in a charitable mood, by the jiggle-wiggle of sympathetic vibrations from the QV's engines. Also, lolling along at 19 knots, nearly her maximum speed, she was subject to noticeable (though not disturbing) light, truncated rolling even on deck 2 midships in conditions of low swells. How different from the mighty QM2. They are each magnificently well-suited to their respective purposes. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
First, my apologizes for not being able to attend the Cruise Critic meeting on Nov 22 onboard. Family obligations prevailed. Our Family of 20; 11 from upstate NY and 9 from London all had a Fantastic voyage onboard the QM2. PRECRUISE: ... Read More
First, my apologizes for not being able to attend the Cruise Critic meeting on Nov 22 onboard. Family obligations prevailed. Our Family of 20; 11 from upstate NY and 9 from London all had a Fantastic voyage onboard the QM2. PRECRUISE: Family from London flew in on Thursday Nov 20 and stayed at the Newark Crowne Plaza (formerly Four Points by Sheraton). They had a comfortable stay. Rooms had been recently renovated. The hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle that runs continuously every 20 minutes. Online rates were under $120.00 per night. The rest of us drove down on Friday Nov 21 and picked up the family in Newark. EMBARKATION: We arrived at the Brooklyn terminal just after 1pm. Porters were friendly and very helpful. They took care of our coach load of luggage with no problems. Checkin was a long hot process, but alas we were all onboard. CABINS: All our staterooms were ready and luggage had already begun to arrive by the time we made to our cabins. We had 8 balcony (B5) cabins on Deck 8 midship and 1 inside cabin on deck 6 midship. Cabins were attractive, comfortable and spacious. The beds were high enough to fit large suitcases underneath. There was not enough drawer and shelving space but we managed. The bathroom was small but efficient. Extra storage space was available in the cupboards under the sink. Shower hose was detachable and strength hot and strong. Balconies were a decent size with 3 lounge chairs (plastic but very comfortable) and a table. We were able to open the adjoining balconies. They were also obstructed by lifeboats. This did not bother us, especially because we knew exactly what we had booked. If you do not mind the obstructed view, I would consider Deck 8 to be an excellent location. You are 1 floor up from Kings Court,the spa,and the gym. You are on the same floor as the library, the salon, Todd English and the Terrace Pool and Bar. SERVICE: We found service to be consistently excellent throughout our voyage. Our stateroom attendants were efficient and responded to pages within minutes. The waitstaff in all dining areas were friendly and professional. The front desk personnel were always smiling and willing to help with all reasonable requests. Management in all areas seen to have the interest of all passengers at heart. FOOD. We found the food to be way above average to very good. We found it very helpful to pay close attention to meal times and locations that are posted in the Daily Programme. There was always food available. The Kings Court may take some getting used to but it is best to sample from one of the four areas at a time and not try to maneuver all areas in one go. BREAKFAST: Kings Court was really good. Made to order eggs were available in the Carvery. Omelettes, pancakes and waffles were also available in the Chef's Galley. Dining Room was surprisingly full for breakfast, which was always served hot and fast even with a large table. LUNCH: Kings Court restaurant serves their specialties during lunch. There was always a large selection in each area. The hot desserts were to die for. Fresh whipped cream was available on request Dining Room was also very good the one time we had lunch there. Not sure if the menu remains the same. Golden lion pub; had fish and chips during one lunch. Well worth the wait for a table. Children are allowed during lunch as it is non smoking during this time. FORMAL TEA: Queens Room; Not to be missed. The white glove service, the scones, the tea, the scones, the live band, the scones, the dancing, the scones DINNER: We had 8:30pm Dinner in the Dining room was always an exquisite affair made even more so when surrounded by well dressed individuals. The waitstaff was efficient and served each course in a non rushed pace. Plates were well presented with portions that are sufficient even if small by America's standards. You are more than welcome to order another course of any meal. All meals were excellent. At the end of dinner the last evening we were presented with a folder containing the Dinner Menus for our voyage. A very nice touch. *There has been more than a few mentions on the CC board concerning the friendliness of the dining room staff. The servers have many passengers to take care of in a timely manner. Their life story no matter how interesting is a not a pre-requisite to us having a meal. Our orders taken in a timely and professional manner is. Kings Court: Chef's Galley; Most of us ate here for the Steak Night. There is no additional charge for this location. It was an intimate affair that is definitely a most do at least once. The head Chef was very entertaining which made the wait in between courses less noticeable. Steaks were huge. Chicken and Veal or Lamb was also presented. All meats were well prepared and tasty. The head chef prepares an item from each course and then all the meals are cooked behind the scenes. La Piazza had a good selection during buffet nights. Lotus; Some of our family members ate here during ala-carte evening and could not stop raving about it . Carvery: Some of us ate here during ala-carte evening. The portion were huge and surprisingly very good. Todd English; did not eat here, hopefully next time Room Service for breakfast and lunch came hot and on time. For breakfast you can pre-order the night before noting the time you would like delivery. For VEGETARIANS; the dining room staff went above and beyond. Each evening they presented the dinner menu for the next day and another menu from which you can pre-order all your courses. We had one vegetarian family member and she raved about all the dishes. DRESS; During the day the attire was varied. We all made an extra effort to be elegant casual during sea days. Everyone onboard seem to abide by the dress code for dinner in the main dining room. FELLOW PASSENGERS; definitely a much older crowd than most cruise ships, and not exactly multi-generational. This was not a minus for us as our family members were well aware of the passenger makeup before-hand. Among our family we had under 17; 6 30-40; 4 50-60; 6 over 70; 4 ENTERTAINMENT and Public Places: Theater; the production shows seemed fair. Somehow I was never able to get to the shows on time so cannot give a complete review Guest Performers: Fair to Excellent Planetarium; was down for the first few days but was able to attend two of the shows, highly recommended. Although no one could figure out how to operate the reclining seat. Lounges; were well attended during the evening so much so that it was difficult to find a seat depending on the Entertainers. Queens Room; some family members did attend the day dance lessons and really had a good time. In the evening it was an excellent location after dinner even if you did not participate in the dancing G32; This night club was very cosy. After midnight all life was found here and that includes the casino. Casino; not a very lively place. Slot machines were always in abundance. The casino was also not smoky. The stores; Some bargains could be found. I was not offended by the hallway sales, some of the better bargains could be found there. Library; busiest library I have ever seen on and off a ship. Spa; Some family members did the day pass and thought it was relaxing and well worth the additional expense Gym; my Mother-in-law visited the gym daily. She mainly used the treadmills. She thought they were old and not very comfortable. Not all equipment was in working order. Our teenagers thought the equipment was good most had TV's attached. Towels and water were provided Bingo; the weakest purse ever. However you have many chances to win not much. Guest Lecturers; Saw them on TV. Very informative. Internet and In-cabin TV; The interactive TV was discontinued during the dry dock weeks prior to our sailing. The wireless internet available throughout the ship was sporadic to non-existent the first few days but did improve later in the sailing. We had our lap-tops with us and was told to prop the cabin door open as the signals were in the hallways. Computers were available in the Connexions and the Library. THE KIDS ZONE: I have 3 children; 2, 3, and 15. We also had 3 additional teenagers. This sailing was at full occupancy and had only 80 passengers under 17 years. Our teenagers occupied themselves, they had been warned a head of time that there may not be many teenagers. Our toddlers on the other hand absolutely loved the Kids zone. They went from 7pm - midnight the first 6 nights and then 1-4pm the last day when they had a big party for the kids. There were at least 8 one year olds on board. The zone also has an outside play area, however the staff takes only 5yrs and above out there. THE STAFF HERE IS INCREDIBLE, THEY GENUINELY LOVE CHILDREN. Ports of Call. St Kitts: Two of our teenagers had monkeys put on their heads and then to compound the atrocity they were charged US$10 each to take a picture with their own cell phones. The girls were mortified and scared at the time. By now they are somewhat able to laugh it off especially with the evidence still on their phones. (No need to flay us. An adult was only a few yards behind them) Some family members did do a private tour of this Island, the picture they took are absolutely breathtaking Grenada: Most of us did private tours here including the water fall. Recommended. Bonaire: We all just walked around in the area close to the QM2. Seems like a beautiful Island. One of my sisters' would like to return for a land vacation. Debarkation; our gathering place was the Winter Garden. During the debarkation talks the approximate time for each color was announced. Our color time was spot on. We were off the QM2 through immigration, collect our bags and through customs in less than half an hour, and with 20 people that is no easy feat. Post Cruise; Sawgrass Tours (Fort Lauderdale) was on time, friendly and professional. We did a tour of Miami, a stop at the Hard Rock Casino and then was dropped off at our hotel; The Gallery One Double Tree. Highly recommend this hotel especially for families. Their 2 bedroom suites can accommodate up to 8 people with ease. The full kitchen is a big plus. Location is unbeatable. The Galleria Mall is next door with many fine stores and one of the best food courts I have ever encountered. The water taxi stops at this hotel and you can also take the trolley to the beach and other shopping. The trolley ride is under $2. IN CLOSING. This was a perfect family vacation. The QM2 provided excellent cabins, service and food. We were able to gather and dine in the most exquisite rooms,theaters and halls. We hope to again sail onboard her hopefully next year. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Contrary to the comments by other contributors on Cruise Critics, we found the Cabin to be very well endowed with storage space, even to drawers below the bedside tables and under the beds. There is a good-sized dressing Table with laptop ... Read More
Contrary to the comments by other contributors on Cruise Critics, we found the Cabin to be very well endowed with storage space, even to drawers below the bedside tables and under the beds. There is a good-sized dressing Table with laptop space and a variety of electrical sockets. Although the bathroom is small it has plenty of shelf space and is very practical and adequate. The balcony is large: about eleven feet (2.1 meters) by seven feet (3.3metres) with two comfortable chairs and a good table. The ship's public areas are beautifully designed with plenty of space and an air of calmness. All the staff members are friendly and exceptionally well trained. Everything possible is done for the guests with undetectable efficiency. This is a sign of superb management. Our Cunard inclusive flights were direct from Manchester UK chartered from Titan Airways were especially good. The embarkation was well ordered and easy. The disembarkation was miraculously smooth. No mad scramble like other cruises, we leisurely left the ship when asked and our cases were already sorted and placed on a trolley for us to push a short distance to a very luxurious coach for our one hour journey to the airport outside Athens. The Tiitan plane was on time and our four hour flight direct to Manchester was very comfortable, with an unusually good dinner and free drinks. What an excellent service from Cunard. The show dancers and singers, the guest virtuosos, the Golden Lion pub, the various bars, the Commodore Club and the leisure areas with plenty of space for all were all of superb quality. We had four great dinner companions, Dave and Debie from Nova Scotia, Jack and Hanne from Scotland. The two Waiters, from Mauritius were knowledgeable and quietly proficient and our food was amazingly good. We didn't go on any of the ship's tours because, as usual, they were well overpriced. We did our own thing at each port of call and enjoyed them all. The two stops in Egypt were a waste of time and the places were very 'third world scruffy' Minor Criticisms There are two "pianists", 'Frankie' and Sandor Kaszap, alternating between the various bars and they both have, distractingly, little sense of timing and seem to have loose fingers, which hit the wrong notes with panache. It's as though they discover a lot of notes they have missed and then throw them in at odd times. They would be better served working on this god-given talent to become comedy acts. The looped background wailing and screaming 'muzak' all over the place is a disconcertingly crude intrusion into the ambience of such a grand ship. Rather than fine china crockery the use of thick cafe pots in the Lido buffet, is a surprise in such a well thought out concept. Particularly obscure are the 'labourer's mugs' instead of cups and saucers. On other Cruise lines the public toilets have stacks of folded hand towels and a neat bin. Here they have inset stainless steel paper towel dispensers incorporating minute bins, fitted well away from the wash hand basins, making the place untidy. The beautiful dEcor and furnishing throughout the ship was marred by the use of cheap faux-veneered mimicked wood sheets and flimsy metal trim and the utilitarian cabin passageways, this gives a 'short-changed' feel to the detailing. This is a shame. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Queen Vic ancient wonders Reviewed By: Chesham, Scunthorpe England u.k Cruise Line: Cunard Cruises Times cruised before: 10+ Cruise Ship: Queen Victoria Sailed: November, 2008 Destination: Mediterranean Age: 56-65 First time on ... Read More
Queen Vic ancient wonders Reviewed By: Chesham, Scunthorpe England u.k Cruise Line: Cunard Cruises Times cruised before: 10+ Cruise Ship: Queen Victoria Sailed: November, 2008 Destination: Mediterranean Age: 56-65 First time on this ship, second on Cunard line.The other a 4 day taster to Hamburg on the Queen Mary. Flew from Manchester , Titan Airways. Journey good , but breakfast was , a full english in an aluminum container, a eat and mess combination. Hot towels and free papers given to you, comfortable seating. Arrived in Rome, journey by bus 1 hr ,quick and efficient transfers, worried about 600 cases all piled into a furniture van, but delivered to the stateroom in less then 2 hrs of arrival at the port. Embarkation, was so quick, although the hall was packed on board in less then 10 mins. Directed to the lift,s then shown to the stateroom on deck 5 by the deck housekeeper. Balcony stateroom, was the same as the Queen Mary , drawers under the bed had been added, even had 4 complimentary slippers, found everything up to the standard Cunard preaches. Bathroom,s shower was big enough for me and i am not a small person. Kept wonderfully clean and tidy by our steward Nelson, nothing was to much for him and always with a smile. Britannia restaurant Was a joy, everything that was wrong on the Queen Mary was brilliant on this one. The restaurant manager kept our open sitting table for us as we gelled with our two waiters. Kriystoff the head waiter was a dream , made our holiday. Arranged a galley tour for the two of us with Nick the executive chef, and gave us the menus in advance, so my wife could order what she liked. On my birthday the rest manager and the head waiter and 4 waiters "sang happy birthday " and gave me a birthday cake. The service , food and treatment we were given was beyond the 5 star i had hoped for. It was so far in front of the Queen Mary. The first night we were invited to a Sailaway party in the Mauritania suite, by some of our friends. found on this site. We sailed away to champagne and met interesting and varied new friends from America and Canada. and the U.K The entertainment was not as good as the Queen Mary , but enjoyable none the less. Although i do prefer Victoria,s theatre, i wish that they had put a planetarium on here. Being a trivia person , we had a good time in the Golden Lion at various times, and the food there was first rate, and very busy at lunchtimes.The in house band ,dixieland special was brilliant. The Food Court , nicknamed the zoo , was quick clean and the food up to a high standard. The special nights were booked up within 1 hr, must have been the 100 japanese on board, The only sour note was on remembrance day when a few of these people , glared at our friends and us as we wore our poppy,s, time to move on for them , i think? The Queens room Afternoon tea twice the standard as the QM, it helps that they can rope the area off and lay up without anybody there, run in military style , a joy to watch if you have ever been a catering. Excursions These are always expensive , but you know this before so you can always do your homework and go alone. Pyramids and the sphinx , long and hard , 13 hr day, and only on the sites for a total of 2 hrs. Why they have never seen a dustbin in Egypt, defies me, it was a bit off putting seeing dead and bloated ,water buffaloes, in the river with rubbish strewn around the banks, if you go be prepared for a culture shock, Turkey, Greece and the Italian historical sites ,educational and interesting. Malta was one of the best went on our own tours 14 euro,s for 4 hrs. To cap it all , my friends had a birthday party for me in there suite on the last night, canapes to die for and a pleasant butler Victor serving us all At 11,000 per person, it was luxury , i could never afford, but a taste , i will never forget. To finish I can only say , that i could not find a fault on this cruise, (i was not looking for any) and it exceeds a 5 star rating. Not a liner but a very superior cruise ship. Special mentions to the executive chef Nick ( who will go to the new QE if rumors are true ) and his no2 twin mark, who we had many conversations with Krystoff the Head waiter , who was a star as was all the restaurant personal A holiday to remember and the best of out 10 plus cruise by a mile Quality of Food Britannia Restaurant Dinner and breakfast lido and the golden lion for lunch Entertainment 3 Stars Shore Excursions 3 Stars Staff how many above 5 stars can i give Children's Facilities n/a Onboard Activities 4 Stars Cabins 5 Stars Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
My wife and I flew into LGA, took a limo to the dock, got into line (we're only Silver), and waited and waited and waited. We arrived at 1PM and finally boarded the ship at 2:20, an ominous beginning which, fortunately, was the low ... Read More
My wife and I flew into LGA, took a limo to the dock, got into line (we're only Silver), and waited and waited and waited. We arrived at 1PM and finally boarded the ship at 2:20, an ominous beginning which, fortunately, was the low point of the trip. STATEROOM On the 12th deck was very nice, lots of storage, and I didn't have to lift the bed to slide a suitcase underneath it. Bathroom had real tiles, not plastic, and the shower was large enough to accommodate my 6"5". 230# body with no trouble. The steward was like a phantom, rarely saw her but always had a neat and clean room, freshly made up. FOOD we ate in the Britannia Club due to our cabin selection. Very nice as it's a single sitting. At times we would arrive at 6:45 and leave after 9. The food was OK, some meals actually were excellent, but the "lobster" is,as usual on a ship, crayfish, overgrilled and I don't recommend it. Cold soups were always excellent and the desserts actually had some flavor to them, a surprise on a cruise ship. We ate one night at Todd English and I highly recommend it, even with the additional $30 p/p cost. If you order wine by the glass there, be sure to inquire about its cost. I didn't and would up with a $21 French pinot noir which was no better than my wife's $13 American pinot noir. Serves me right. The Britannia staff was very attentive, especially the maitre d'hotel. Being recognized by name upon entering is a very nice touch and I appreciated the staff's accessibility without their being too chummy. The Golden Lion Pub is very good and very crowded. Try it on a port day for a more relaxing experience. ENTERTAINMENT The best we've seen in more than 30 cruises between us. Dance troupe was excellent, their costumes magnificent. Theater is beautiful, was never crowded, and had no one hawking drinks. A classical pianist, a violinist, and a trained female singer were all excellent, as were the pianists in the lounges. A harpist and a string quartet played in public areas. Clearly, this is not a ship geared to youngsters and that's what made if so enjoyable for us. PORTS OF CALL Well, we chose this ship because my hard working wife needed a break and her lazy, indolent husband needed to maintain his retired life style. So we never took a tour of any kind, but merely wandered the streets of St. Kitts, Bon Aire, and Granada. One shopping note: the ship's shopping expert kept pushing Diamonds International in St. Kitts. We went there, spent 5 minutes checking it out and then beat a hasty retreat. If you're spending thousands on diamonds, this place will not give you a warm feeling. Maybe it's OK for trinkets. Two doors down was Kays, a much nicer shop with nice items but pretty high prices. We stumbled on a place called Glitter Jewelry, a name designed to discourage serious shoppers, I think, but to our joy, the managers both claimed GIA certification and the merchandise we looked at was top quality with good pricing. Bargain, bargain, bargain! FACILITIES The ship is magnificent, though some areas are not as grand as on other ships. We had high seas the first two nights, and the Queen plowed through them easily with virtually no movement even on the 12th deck. If sea sickness is a concern, this is the ship for you. Our cabin was quiet and we had to open the door to hear PA announcements. The Lounges are comfortable but I must warn against mixed drinks. They always seemed watery. My wife thinks it's because the ice cubes are so small they disappear in a shaker. Stick with wine, beer , port, etc. The theater is beautiful, as is the planetarium, which serves multiple uses. There's an extremely extensive library and a cigar room, too, where a Cuban is not priced out of sight. I signed up for $90 worth of Wi-Fi minutes but when it didn't work in our cabin, I cancelled the service and found places ashore to use my laptop. TIPPING A charge of $11 p/p per diem ($13 in suites)is made automatically to an account. But typically, additional tipping directly to stewards, waiters, and such is done. I cancelled the automatic charge and put tips directly in the hands of those who earned them. People behind the scenes, as important as they might be, should be paid by the company, I feel. DRESS Three formal nights on an 8 night cruise. Most men wore black tie and it really adds to the sense of class the ship so richly deserves. During the day most people slipped back into their normal style of dress. Too bad. Or am I really showing my years? GENERAL OVERVIEW I once read that unless "Sir" or "Lady" proceeded a name, Cunard staff was haughty. Maybe that was true 30 years ago, it isn't today. Smiles and greeting abounded and I really felt they were given sincerely. This was our first venture on the QM2; it won't be our last. Simply an excellent experience overall. Thank you, Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
Queen Victoria Caribbean Celebration 11.12.08 - 02.01.09 This cruise was the 1st year anniversary for the Queen Victoria and the last sailing in her inaugural season. Ship's Log Passenger Capacity - 2,014 Crew - 900 We heard ... Read More
Queen Victoria Caribbean Celebration 11.12.08 - 02.01.09 This cruise was the 1st year anniversary for the Queen Victoria and the last sailing in her inaugural season. Ship's Log Passenger Capacity - 2,014 Crew - 900 We heard conflicting information as to if the voyage was sold out or not. Some crew said it wasn't and some said it was. The ship did not feel overcrowded and there was plenty of space for everyone. Ports of Call Azores; Antigua; St Kitts; St Lucia; Grenada; Barbados; Madeira; Vigo. Pre-Cruise Stay at Chewton Glen We were very fortunate to start our holidays with a one night pre-cruise stay at the Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa in Hampshire, England (wish it had been longer). The service, accommodation, facilities and ambience at Chewton was absolutely faultless, fantastic and utterly indulgent. The ambience was further enhanced by a large number of traditionally decorated real fir trees scattered about the grounds and the interior and gave the whole place a Christmassy feel. The trees where complimented by tasteful Christmas decorations in the grand entrance hall and lounges. The overall effect is of a grand mansion with a contemporary country feel about it. As we drove up the sweeping drive to the entrance/reception a gentleman and a lady came out to greet us at the car; the gentleman took care of parking the car and seeing to our luggage whilst the lady escorted us inside. As our room was not quite ready we were escorted to the gentleman's bar where there was a real flame fire in a grand open fireplace ..... Cruising the Caribbean couldn't have been further from our minds. Just to sit and allow oneself to be enveloped with the warmth of the fire and the coolness of a glass of Gossett Champagne was utterly heavenly. My husband said it was the quickest route to complete relaxation he has ever had after a hectic year at work!! As we had been travelling for many hours we were quite ravenous so we partook in Afternoon Tea (well, we thought we would get some practice in for the White Star Service on board ship). This was absolutely delicious; freshly brewed tea, dainty sandwiches, fondant fancies, mince pies, Christmas cake and chocolates. Further surprises were in store when we arrived in our room. It was absolutely huge, with a king size bed (heavenly), state of the art Bang & Olufson CD Player and a TV. The bathroom had a bath, double shower, large fluffy towels and a selection of Molton Brown toiletries (very nice). The facilities were further enhanced by a large dressing room. In the late afternoon we enjoyed a couple of hours in the spa, which was definitely an enjoyable and relaxing experience. So much so that my husband declared that once on board the Queen Victoria he wished to purchase a spa pass (and he did, times two!!). I also visited the beauty salon and had a wonderful manicure by an attentive nail technician named Claire (Claire also gave me a bottle of polish to take away with me for touch ups, which was thoughtful). We had a pre-booked dinner reservation for 8.30pm and yet again we found the unobtrusive service, fine food and beverages of the highest standard and quality and we would say the restaurant is well worth a visit for couples as well as groups. We awoke on embarkation day to a bright, sunny and frosty morning. The grounds looked so neat, clean and crisp in the morning frost and we enjoyed a leisurely walk after breakfast. Chewton even provide racing green wellington boots for the guests to use if their own footwear doesn't fit the bill!! Also included in the price was parking for our car for the duration of the cruise and transfers to and from the port. The transfer was provided by a chauffeur driven Mercedes (John was our driver, who again provided a service that was unobtrusive yet attentive) along a scenic route through the New Forest (saw many wild horses and deer). All in all, a fantastic start to our holiday and we utterly recommend it. Embarkation Thanks to good planning by the hotel representatives, we arrived at the port at 11.50am. When we first set eyes on the Queen Victoria she looked so majestic and beautiful. John told us to go straight through to the check-in desk as he would see to our bags (we have not touched our main luggage since we left home yesterday). After a speedy check-in we went through to a very calm departure lounge. We were given a card with a number on it. At intervals a number was announced and people were asked to proceed and board the ship. I must add that there was a feeling of festive excitement provided by The Salvation Army brass band playing Christmas carols. It was beginning to feel like the start of magical experience. By 12.30pm we were embarking the Queen Victoria for the first time via the majestic Grand Lobby. Words fail me in trying to describe the understated opulence of the 3 tier Grand Lobby. An absolutely awe inspiring architectural wonder!! We were both 'punch drunk' with the pure excitement of embarking such a beautiful ship and we could not wait to explore further. Stateroom We next went to see our stateroom - 5148 on deck five. On the occasional table there were 2 champagne flutes and a full sized bottle of Pol Acker sparkling wine in an ice bucket waiting for us. There was also a fridge filled with soft drinks and water (we drank these over the length of the cruise and we were not charged). We had our bed made up in the Queen configuration (can be twin) and it was very comfortable. The only disappointment was that we were unable to obtain a feather duvet (this is preferable when you are a woman of a certain age who has a tendency to have 'tropical' moments). Thankfully the 6 pillows were feather and they were also very comfortable. Under the bed were 2 large draws (again I understand that previously there was near anarchy due to the Queen having no drawers!!). These were very useful for underwear, swimwear, hats, handbags and belts etc. There was more than enough hanging space in the wardrobes for formal wear etc. The wardrobe also contained a key coded safe (very easy to use). As this was a Christmas cruise, we decorated our stateroom with battery operated fairy lights and Christmas Cards we had been sent by family and friends. Even our room steward commented how nice it looked. We had a stateroom that had a 'corner' balcony. The balcony was larger than what we previously have had on the Queen Mary 2 on deck eight (although that had been big enough). The cabin itself was also larger than the cabins either side, another unexpected bonus (the extra space being a bonus and not the fact that it was roomier than the others). The stateroom was tastefully decorated in muted beiges, with a red carpet and drapes. The red theme was the norm for the port side and corresponded to the port side passenger deck corridors. The starboard side is carpeted in blue (color coded carpets is useful when exiting a lift as you know immediately which side your cabin is on). I will mention here that the stairways are also different colors so you can identify if you are forward (A - Red), midships (B - Green) or aft (C - Blue). The bathroom and shower cubicle was of an adequate size and much larger than I was expecting (I had previously read on cruising forums that they were 'tiny and too small'). My husband is 6 foot tall and weights approximately 210 lbs and he said the shower space was large enough. There was plenty of fluffy towels and a plethora of Gilchrist and Soames toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion) in the bathroom which were replenished daily. There is a small glass shelf either side of the sink (for toiletries) and a larger shelf the width of the bathroom under the sink (also containing a waste bin). The only down side to our stateroom was the climate control and the toilet. Even with the setting on the coolest, the room was 'airless, stuffy and warm' during the night. We were unable to have the cabin door open at night as it this caused 'whistling' down the corridor and we did not wish to disturb our fellow passengers. We had to call maintenance 5 times during the first 8 days as the toilet would not empty after flushing. Other than these couple of issues, the room met all our needs and it always felt welcoming returning to it each day. Artem, our room steward was attentive, unobtrusive and friendly when we did see him, although that was not often. He kept our toiletries and towels freshly replenished on a daily basis and turned down our bed each evening (complete with pillow chocolate). Sail-Away Party There wasn't an embarkation sail-away party as such, not that we could find anyway. Nonetheless, that did not dampen our excitement or enthusiasm. We wrapped up warm and went up on deck; fueled with mulled wine (provided by Martin, a very personable young man who was the lido pool deck bar person) and we listened to The Salvation Army playing Christmas carols as we set sail. Santa Claus even waved us off!! Grand Lobby As already mentioned this is a 3 tier awe inspiring architectural wonder!! It never ceased to bring a feeling of 'wow' whenever we walked through it! The 'sculptured' carpets are absolutely beautiful and are complimented by marble floors. You have to see it to appreciate it as photographs just don't do it justice. I awoke early one morning early in the voyage and went for a stroll around the ship. I arrived at the Grand Lobby to find that the 'Christmas Elves' had put up the Christmas decorations. These were absolutely wonderful and gave a magical atmosphere. They had cleverly strung Santa in his sleigh and the reindeer across the lobby atrium so that it appeared to be flying across the ship. Fabulous! Over the next couple of days they added a life size fairytale scene with Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs set in a 'village' on deck one of the lobby. I must add that throughout the ship there were many tastefully decorated Christmas Trees and decorations. In addition all the bars and public spaces had hand made Ginger Bread Houses filled with cookies, chocolates and candies. It all helped to create a Christmassy ambience and was a joy to see. Britannia Restaurant As we were in an A4 stateroom our allocated restaurant was the Britannia. This is two tiered in layout and located at the stern of the ship. At the time of booking 20 months previously we had asked for a table for 2 on second sitting. These requests were honored (Thank you Cunard). The restaurant has art deco and nouveau inspired design features and is wonderfully pleasing to the eye. The main focal point of the room is a fantastic illuminated globe (signifying Cunard's ongoing ocean travel) and is at the head of the Captain's table. Talking about the Captain's table, we had the very good fortune to dine there twice during this voyage. The first time was on Christmas day when we were invited to dine with the entertainment and cruise sale staff (Edmund, Gaynor and Rebecca) and some of the many friends we made on board (Mandy, Brian and James). A wonderful time was had by all and there was much fun and laughter. PS Very stylish shoes Edmund! Captain Christopher Rynd and his wife Julianne requested our company on the 28th December and we gladly RSVP'd (I also booked a facial as I wanted to look my best and feel extra groomed). My husband and I felt so privileged to have been invited as we consider ourselves unassuming northern folk, who like a lot of people, have worked hard to achieve this lifestyle (and continue to do so) and are grateful to have been 'noticed' enough to warrant an invite. Three other couples were also invited and everyone was very pleasant and had interesting stories to share. I was very fortunate to have been seated to the captain's immediate right. Before the meal commenced a group photograph was taken and a couple of days later a complimentary photograph was delivered to our stateroom. Half way through dinner, Captain Rynd and Julianne swapped places, which gave me the chance to share a 'good natter' with Julianne and gain some insight into the life of a captain's wife. Again this was another fabulous evening with interesting company. A night we will never forget and as a bonus we have a fabulous photo as a memento. The menu choice and food that was available in the restaurant throughout the cruise was of a high standard and always arrived hot. The service on occasion could be slow, although we did not mind as we often shared other tables with the friends we made on board and we were too busy chatting and having fun to notice the time. It became noticeable when we often missed events that started at 10.00pm because we were still dining. In the main, the waiters and sommeliers in the restaurant were personable and friendly. Public Rooms - Midships Lounge This was an unexpected but nonetheless pleasant find on deck 3!! Pre-cruise I had read many reviews but do not recall reading anything about the Midships Bar. It is not a very big bar, is semi-circle in design, and seemed to have a warm ambience. It was a great place to have a pre-dinner drink and to people watch as they passed by. Chart Room This was ideally situated to have a pre-dinner drink as it was outside the Britannia Restaurant on deck 2. As with all the public rooms on board, this is a tastefully appointed room with nautical artifacts and echoes the general Art Deco/Victoriana theme of the ship. There are some fabulous nautical paintings on display in this room. Nibbles such as nuts, and Bombay mix are offered along with your drinks. Champagne Bar The Champagne bar is located on deck 2 of the Grand Lobby. It echoes the one that is on the Queen Mary 2 and is tastefully decorated in the Art Deco theme that is favored on board. You can get a selection of champagnes here including Veuve Clicquot. You are offered fresh strawberries with you drinks in this bar (I think caviar is also available). This was where we toasted in the New Year 2009 with a couple of bottles of Veuve with some of the friends we had made on board. Cafe Carinthia Again this was another tastefully decorated public space where the Art Deco theme continued. The chairs and settees are of the large soft upholstered type and are very comfortable. There are a large number of tables seating four by the large picture windows that afford wonderful views of the waves. This was a favorite place to sit on the more 'choppy' sea days. We often sat in this room enjoying a hot beverage whilst watching the turbulent waves. You have to buy your hot beverages in this bar/cafe although there are a variety of free light snacks available throughout the day. The prices were reasonable, with coffee and tea from a $1.00 upwards. Todd English Todd English is a paid supplement restaurant - $30.00 Dinner; $20.00 Lunch. We enjoyed two dinner's here; the food was exquisite and the service was exemplary. In our opinion we felt it was worth the extra, especially on a longer voyage. Golden Lion Pub This was a firm favorite for many passengers who like to enjoy karaoke and pub quizzes. The deco differs from the rest of the ship as it is of the traditional British Pub style. There is hot food available at lunch time and consists of traditional fish & chips (very nice), ploughman's lunch, pies etc. Very authentic and we occasionally visited for the quiz in the afternoon or to have lunch. Empire Casino & Bar The casino was one of the few public spaces where passengers were allowed to smoke, so it was quite smoky. There is a seating area at the entrance to the casino and a large bar. These spaces always appeared full when we passed. We only visited a couple of times to have a go on the slots and the Poker table. Hemispheres Nightclub This is situated on deck 10 near stairway A. It has a circular dance floor and a very ornate chandelier. It is a very attractive room, although often when we went in it was empty. Although the themed nights proved to be very popular, especially the ABBA night they had. Commodore Club This is one of our favorite spaces on the ship (as is the case on the QM2) and did not disappoint; we frequently it regularly. It is located at the bow of the ship on deck 10 and affords fabulous views of the waves during the day and sunsets in the evening. We used it for coffee in a morning (after 10.00am), pre dinner cocktails and refreshments when returning 'home' on port days. Karen was one of the waiting staff and she provided a very efficient and friendly service and often greeted us by name (as other staff did during the voyage). You are given 'nibbles' with your beverages in this bar during the day and canapEs with pre-dinner cocktails. A firm favorite!! Queens Room This was a favorite for all those passengers that enjoyed dancing; we rarely were able to secure a seat in this area. I feel that being on second sitting does put you at a disadvantage for securing seats, as by the time you come out of dinner the passengers from the first sitting have already got seated. For us we still prefer to eat later, as it is less of a rush on port days. The Grill passengers would not have this problem as they have 'open' seating and eat when they chose between 6.30 - 9.00pm. But then again they have paid an hefty premium for this privilege. Royal Court Theatre The theatre is the most opulent and authentically styled (traditional west end) we have seen at sea. It really is a fabulous theatre with unrestricted views from wherever you sit. There are 8 private boxes (curved perspex front) at each side of the theatre, which for the most part of the shows remained empty. We did have the opportunity to sit in one the first night as they were 'free', at other times there was a $50.00 surcharge. This included a small bottle of champagne and chocolates. Winter Garden This is a light and airy pleasant space on board and was popular with most of the guests. It is located between the Lido restaurant and the Pavilion pool on deck 9. My husband and I enjoyed a very nice bottle of Rose Veuve Clicquot Champagne on Christmas day in here and thoroughly enjoyed it (very civilized). I have saved the cork and cage for my memory box of the voyage. Lido Restaurant I must say all the food we ate from the Lido was tasty, hot and satisfying. The wait staff often asked us if we would like drinks fetching and they would assist any passenger who appeared to have their hands full. You could also experience pre-bookable 'Alternative Dining' if you so wished. We booked the 'Asian Cuisine' and the service and food was absolutely faultless. There is no charge for this. I was surprised to hear how some passengers spoke to the staff and to each other. They totally allowed what appeared to be 'trivialities' to spoil their experience and cause them to take their frustrations out on others (although I did not know what other frustrations they may have had). For example, two couples I saw were arguing over a table (when there were plenty of empty ones available). In another instance I witnessed a passenger really shouting at a Lido Food Manager about the fact that his coffee was cold. I was embarrassed and quite cross at the same time whilst witnessing this 'bullying' incident. Lido Pool, Deck & Bar We generally favored this deck to sun bath or enjoy an afternoon cocktail (weather permitting). From the second time the deck attendant Warren and the bar man Martin saw us they would greet us by name and ensure that we had everything we needed. They both really went the extra mile to provide an efficient and attentive service. 'Thank you' warren and Martin!! Library The focal point of this 2 tiered library is the magnificent mahogany spiral staircase. The library is reported to have 6000 + books and contains something for everyone from autobiographies, true crime, history, fiction and non-fiction. There is also a selection of daily papers and magazines for passengers to read whilst visiting the library. You can also pick up a daily quiz and crossword sheet. Cunarder Museum This was something we passed everyday as we walked around the ship but we did not find the time to really study what was in the display cases ........ Yes really, on a 3 week voyage we found there were things we still had not managed to fit in. The museum carries memorabilia from previous Cunard ships. We intend to peruse more thoroughly when we revisit the ship in August 2009. Royal Arcade The main focal point of the Royal Arcade is the 'Pillar' clock, which has been made by Dent & Co (who is credited with making Big Ben in London). The clock casing is black with gold leaf and the clock face is white with black roman numerals. It stands in the center of an illuminated double staircase and looks very grand. This was a favorite spot for the ship photographers to take pictures of the passengers on formal nights. On the starboard side of the staircase is the Golden Lion and the Casino is on the port side. The shops on board of are the upmarket variety where you can buy Faberge Eggs, Fine Art and branded watches and jewelry. The shops were supplemented by $10.00 stalls that sold toiletry sets, belts, bags, ties, jewelry, watches etc. These were ideal as affordable gifts for either people back home or the cruise staff. There is also a shop that carries a range of everyday toiletries, over the counter medications and plasters etc. Spa We purchased '5 day' spa passes ($85.00 each) and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the spa after a day's sight seeing. The passes do not need to be used on consecutive days, which was a pleasant surprise as previously I had read on forums that they had to be. The spa is a wonderful tranquil space and the hydra-therapy pool is excellent. It is furnished with wooden steamer chairs & fresh towels. There is a water cooler and fresh fruit platters for the passengers' replenishment. However, I did feel the water in the pool looked a little murky towards the end of the voyage. Grills We were not able to frequent any of the Grill areas and on this ship they are cleverly segregated from the rest of the ship and the public areas. The Grill facilities are located at the top of the ship on the upper decks 11 & 12. I think the way they have been located is very appropriate and diplomatic of Cunard as the Grill Passengers do pay a hefty premium for the privilege of having the extra attention, space and open sitting dining. Ports of Call Azores; Antigua; St Kitts; St Lucia; Grenada; Barbados; Madeira; Vigo. I will only mention Barbados as it is a favorite of ours; we married there in year 2000. We visited where we got married in the morning (which brought back very fond memories) and then we went on an excursion in the afternoon. Excursions As we have been fortunate enough to have visited the Caribbean several times before, we only did a couple of the excursions. We did the 'Caribbean Sailaway' in Antigua (full day) and can truly recommend it. We had a fabulous day that included snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, dancing and generally having a good time (assisted by the provision of a rather tasty rum punch). We also partook in the 'Swimming with Turtles' in Barbados (half day). This trip coincided with other ships' excursions. This resulted in the waters where the turtles were being over crowded and quite chaotic. My husband went in the water and I chose to sit on board the catamaran and view the turtles from above. They were a lot larger than I realized and were up to a meter across. There was also time to spend some time at the beach at the Sandy Lane resort. This was quite bizarre as we were instructed that we were unable to use any of the sun lounges but we could lay on the sand. The resort had even posted a 'security guard' to watch over us. Nonetheless, a pleasant hour was spent here swimming, beach combing and sun bathing. The crew from the catamaran also provided drinks on the beach. In other ports we did it 'free style' and either commissioned a taxi or went for a stroll. We always allowed plenty of time to return to the ship as we did not want to run the risk of it leaving without us!! Summary A truly enjoyable cruise that exceeded all our expectations; from dining with the Captain and his wife, to re-visiting Barbados, to the friends we made and the warm welcome afforded to us by the cruise staff, it was in the main faultless. All in all we had a fabulous cruise onboard a truly elegant yet contemporary ship, which had a wonderful 'cosy' feel about it; that has given us many pleasant lasting memories and we have made friendships that I feel could last a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
Queen Mary 2 "Caribbean Calypso" 10 night Princess Grill Suite Jan 3, 2009 Embarkation: Considering that it was a record day for passenger traffic through the Port Everglades, FL - nearly 50,000 passengers with ten ships in ... Read More
Queen Mary 2 "Caribbean Calypso" 10 night Princess Grill Suite Jan 3, 2009 Embarkation: Considering that it was a record day for passenger traffic through the Port Everglades, FL - nearly 50,000 passengers with ten ships in port - embarkation was especially smooth. I speak only for grill-class passengers as we were onboard early in the afternoon after only a brief wait indoors in air conditioned, seated, comfort. Britannia passengers apparently endured a sometimes many hours-long standing wait in the sun. Fresh from her November, 2008 drydock, the QM2's hull and superstructure were gleaming. Greeting onboard was even more perfunctory than at any time previously as the customary dual-flanking "receiving lines" of liveried crew were not in evidence. Princess Grill Suite Our forward Princess Grill suite on deck 10 was in fine condition (save one bedside lampshade which had a very small hole), spacious and well-appointed. I was surprised to find our balcony teak handrail had some salt stains; however, these were removed and the rail revarnished within two days without our comment. Our steward was excellent - fully and promptly responsive to all our requests. We hardly ever encountered him so he did not function, as some do, as a quasi-butler/host, but we did not mind this at all. Sail-away: This was our first departure from Port Everglades and I count it among my favorites as the residents of the homes and apartment towers along the channel make their evenings' entertainment of the ships' departures. As we passed, we heard shoreside megaphones encouraging Queen's Grill guests to "get your tuxedos on," sirens heralded our passage and, as we left the channel, residents of the tower along the coastline flashed their apartment lights. We responded with three long (and one short, naturally) "audible ten miles away" blasts of the QM2's great whistles. Princess Grill Restaurant, Grills Lounge, Grills Terrace Physically, the Grill amenities on QM2 lack grace, particularly the Grill restaurants when contrasted with the Britannia. Where the Britannia has its unobstructed sea views, sweeping staircases, grand full beam-width, triple-height, tapestry and light well, the Grill restaurants are shunted-off spaces aft of the cafeteria (King's Court) on Deck 7. Long, narrow, and unrelievedly rectilinear, the great majority of their windows face the partially-enclosed sections of the promenade deck. The remainder face the aft sundeck. These prospects would not be so unfortunate were passengers to maintain a greater sense of decorum during the day on deck. Rather, our table far aft gave onto an ever-changing, stomach-turning montage of sunbathers who, in great part, share their physiognomy with the subjects of Lucien Freud's "Naked Portraits." While I appreciate Maestro Freud's interest in people as animals and his aesthetic transfiguration of his subjects, we hapless viewers in the Grill restaurants enjoyed no such transformative artistry. Passengers on this deck displayed their variously hirsute, decayed, obese, and inadequately-clothed bodies in a panorama which filled the Grills restaurants' aft-facing windows. One might hope at least that when these persons laid prone and splayed they would at least lie facing aft (away from the restaurant) or clothe themselves; one would, however, be sorely disappointed. A mitigation of this problem might be to install some form of semi-opaque scrim in the Grill restaurants' aft-facing window walls as, even at night, the windows gave onto a view of the loungers stacked high and close by. Our Princess Grill restaurant table for eight was comfortable, capacious, well-laid, and expertly-attended. We enjoyed, as always on Cunard, the company of friendly and interesting tablemates, this time from the U.K. Their sense of conviviality, warmth, and wit added immeasurably to our enjoyment They told us that they shared our happy impression of our group. Our waiters provided prompt and attentive service enhanced immensely by our assistant maitre d', Fifi. She went far beyond the call of duty time and again on our behalf and on behalf of our tablemates. Ever present with her flambe trolley to finish a rack of lamb in preparation for English silver service or to make a dessert, she also fulfilled special requests, such as ours for an Indian dinner one night and a Philippine cuisine on another. Food quality and presentation were excellent except for the kitchen-prepared desserts which were lackluster. The after-dinner petits-fours were uniformly-excellent, however. The sommelier was by far the worst I have encountered of the dozens whose service I have enjoyed and from whom I have learned so much. He demonstrated no knowledge of wine and was unable to provide any assistance with ordering at all, being unaware even of the vintages of the Bordeaux. To each bottle, red or white, as I tasted it, he commented only: "it has a nice minerality, doesn't it." At least he omitted this comment with the champagne! Moreover, prices have suddenly jumped on the better selections, many of which were in any event unavailable. I was disappointed with the $ 45 surcharge for caviar but it was of very fine quality and the serving was generous, much more so than on the single night when it was offered us gratis. The Grills Lounge is a similarly-unprepossessing space, narrow and awkward. The furniture is also slightly tatty at this point. The Grills Terrace is a mean space aft of the funnel on deck 11, making for less than clean air at times. Smoking restriction was not enforced, forcing us to move at times. Deck service is occasional and listless. Decor is non-existent: were it used instead as a crew area, it would look no different. This is an especially disappointing contrast to the Upper Grills Terrace on the Queen Victoria which is a smashing success both in its design, finish, (except for the ghastly linoleum decking where teak should be found) and stellar deck service. During drydock, the Chart Room was refitted to great effect. It was always a successful room and is improved by the new carpet and furniture. The photographs of the new room available online cannot convey what a complete success it is. Of equal import is the new non-smoking policy there. Indeed, we could never make use of the room before the refit because it, and the furniture especially, always reeked of stale smoke. Unfortunately, the smokers have moved on to the G32 (disco) where, although smoking is only permitted on the upstairs level, people smoked with impunity on the lower level. Vibz, the casual band, is not improving as time goes on. Perhaps it is time for a change. Entertainment: The highlight, for us, continues to be the ballroom orchestra which now plays consistently at strict dance tempo (except during the occasional "slow sways" which are, admittedly, necessary these days to accommodate those who do not know how to dance but enjoy taking to the floor in any case.) Overall, there has been a consistently improving quality of movement on the floor (e.g. couples moving counterclockwise in the smooth dances and staying in their spots in the spot dances), perhaps aided by the gentlemen hosts. Bravo. The lead singer, Michel Chartier, was not of great voice and the ballroom performance dancers were poor; the jazz band (playing variously in the Golden Lion pub or in the Chart Room) was superlative, as always. We avoided the by now five year old shows - never a draw to begin with. I do not exaggerate when I recount that one evening, while window-shopping on deck 3, just aft of the corridor leading to an entrance to the Royal Court Theatre, the door to the theater opened during a highly-amplified soprano aria and my wife asked why she heard a hair dryer blowing. The shopping was as poor as ever onboard but at least the displays of trashy merchandise outside the shops were more occasional and much more restrained than in the past. This is a great improvement. Indeed, we are happy to report that Cunard has implemented many improvements. To wit: children are no longer permitted in the G32, recorded strict tempo dance music is played in the ballroom before the orchestra appears in the evening and also during their breaks, and smoking has been further restricted. The dress code is the most formal at sea (a minimum of jackets being required for men on all evenings in the public rooms, sea days in tuxedo and some evenings in suit and tie) and everyone appears to enjoy it and adhere to it, thank goodness. In contrast, we were awakened early one morning in port to find the Carnival Victory backing in beside us. Awakened, I say, because, even early in the morn', the Victory blasts pounding bass-heavy "music" in its outdoor areas. As we looked down upon her pool deck, the scene was out of Dante: an enormous television screen loomed over a pit containing "water features," levels of tightly-packed loungers, dining facilities with plastic lawn chairs for seating, children running amok while undershirted, tattoo-wearing men and women roamed carrying brightly-colored "slurpee"-style cups while the deafening music played. I suppose I should be grateful for the relative quiet of the QM2's open decks though the incessant musak is ghastly. Fortunately, one can avoid it along the length of the promenade deck. Wireless internet service was poor (my laptop never was able to connect as a result of the ship's technical problems). I know this because I could access the free Cunard website wirelessly but could not logon to my shipboard account. Conexxions technical support was unable to help. We enjoyed and appreciated the privilege of our first-ever dinner at the Captain's table. Word was that, a few nights previously, an obviously dotty woman had received such an invitation, had accepted it, and then could not be found at the appointed hour. A search party was sent out and she was found dining with her friends at her usual table. When reminded to join the Captain, she, like Melville's cracked lawclerk, Bartelby the Srivener, opined that she "preferr[ed] not to." Appalling! At dawn, on the 13th, it was thrilling to see the Queen Victoria coming up the Port Everglades channel behind us and to think, with pleasure and happy anticipation that we will watch from her decks, next January, the jungles of Panama, as we sail from New York to San Francisco, and that we will enjoy as much seeing the waters of the Pacific lap against her hull as we have before those of the Aegean, of the Ionian, and the of Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
We joined Queen Mary 2 at Fort Lauderdale having crossed the Atlantic from Southampton on Queen Victoria. Some two hundred passengers had chosen this method of joining Queen Mary 2. The transfer between ships was handled efficiently by ... Read More
We joined Queen Mary 2 at Fort Lauderdale having crossed the Atlantic from Southampton on Queen Victoria. Some two hundred passengers had chosen this method of joining Queen Mary 2. The transfer between ships was handled efficiently by both ships. (The only hiccup was a delay due to a high number of German passengers trying to disembark Queen Victoria by ignoring the transfer muster instructions given them, this despite those instructions having been translated into their native language.) The two Queens were berthed on either side of a wide jetty and each had their own embarkation hall. We had had fun at breakfast in the QV's Queens Grill watching our next stateroom on QM2 being cleaned and the balcony washed. There was a wait for check-in to open, our transfer having run so smoothly, however refreshments were provided by Cunard staff. Check in for our group was uneventful despite Cunard having to undertake additional visa checks. The introduction of the ESTA Visa for non US citizens plus Brazilian Visa checks for US citizens: who are currently undergoing a tit for tat visa programme, similar to ours with India. We had again been upgraded from Princess to Queens Grill. A smiley greeting awaited us as we embarked and although we were well capable of finding our stateroom, assistance was on hand had we needed it. We were impressed by our welcome from both our new Butler and his assistant. Our speedy arrival at our suite, within minutes of check-in opening, saw the butler dispatching his assistant to expedite our luggage. My first priority was to checkout my dining table arrangements. I need not have worried. Our Maitre d' on Queen Victoria had emailed his opposite number on QM2 with my preferences and that is exactly what I got. A nicely positioned table for six at the rear of the Queens Grill. The only other priority was to register for an internet package. Cunard generally offer an additional 20 minutes bonus to their timed internet packages if you register on day one. Bingo! between us that was 40 minutes gained. With four back to back Atlantic crossings on QM2 to our credit, this was to be our first 'cruise' with her and we were excited at the prospect of 43 days onboard and to see what differences would exist between a QM2 'Voyage' and a 'Cruise'. Sailaway was delayed by just over an hour so we bided the time cracking a bottle of Cunard's Champagne on our balcony and waving farewell to the Queen Victoria who got away smack on time. Lots of sirens and high spirits abounded as we bid farewell to her. The itinerary for this cruise was what particularly attracted us to it and we were not disappointed. First stop was Grenada. Idyllic, tropical and hot. QM2 was at anchor and the tender service was just fine. We just took a water taxi to Grande Anse beach, rented a couple of sunbeds, and did what we do best. Other visits included Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, rounding Cape Horn and a transit of the Magellan Strait, Santiago from Valparaiso and Lima from Callao, Acapulco and to complete the first leg, Los Angeles. The second leg took us across the pacific to Hawaii, Pago Pago, Auckland and Sydney. Without exception every destination was a great visit. We took Cunard tours at Rio, Santiago and Lima. Without exception these were excellent tours, well guided and reasonable value for money, particularly when considering the meals and wines that were included. One particular gem that I became aware of was that wherever meals are included in a tour Cunard send a team, including one of the executive chefs and a Maitre d', to carry out a health and safety inspection of the premises. Queen Mary 2 is a big ship and it is physically impossible for her to berth at many of the ports premium terminals. Wherever this was not possible commercial facilities were used and free shuttle bus services provided. At Acapulco a tender service was provided which again was pretty efficient. Entertainment onboard was variable when compared with that provided trans Atlantic. A new production team of singers and dancers joined at Fort Lauderdale. They were all talented but, for whatever reason, managed only four full shows and four repeats over our 43 days onboard. The remainder of the 'Headline' entertainment was a variety of musicians, singers, comedians and magicians. Some were particularly good, others mediocre. Whatever ones personal choice for entertainment, there was certainly variety. Including our trip on Queen Victoria I could have seen 4 different violinists. However, the two I did watch were quite outstanding in their field. Other venues around the ship provided further variety: piano, classical strings, jazz and of course the Ballroom and G32 nightclub for dancing. Certainly I would say that the concentration of high quality entertainment is provided transatlantic. The Cunard 'Insights' programme, normally of such a high quality on Atlantic crossings, was definitely dumbed-down during the first two legs. With the notable exception of two speakers, Colonel Hellberg and Captain Haymen, who were both outstanding, the remainder hovered between pretty poor and abysmal. One American female author(!) read entirely from a script and followed that with her finger while a Sherlock Holmes expert again read his entire presentation from hand held A4 paper notes. The Royal correspondent of a down market British tabloid completely broke the world record for the use of 'uuming' and 'aarings' The internet facility onboard proved both popular and busy. There is an abundance of work stations, speeds are variable but very interestingly they became very fast around the equator areas. Timed packages were available which reduced the overall cost. Generally, the quieter the period the faster the connection speed. Wifi is available throughout the ship for those preferring their own laptops. It was great to see Cunard providing full electronic versions of British and international newspapers. These were freely available to read most days around 9.00am , both in the ships library and in the Grills Concierge lounge. Requests that they not be removed were generally adhered to though I did on one occasion spot a woman tearing out a page to spirit away: not exactly a white star passenger. Launderette facilities onboard are reasonable and sufficient if used with common sense. Three commercial washers, three dryers and two ironing boards on each deck. Detergent is provided complimentary. Alas common sense does not always prevail and logjams were experienced when people did not adhere to the simple instructions written in three languages, or when downright stupidity and ill consideration were practiced. On the 28 day first leg of this voyage Cunard instigated four 'special deal' laundry offers of forty items for $30 dollars. Not to be sneezed at when compared to the cost of even the cheapest staterooms. There were 18 Formal, 7 Semi-formal and 18 Elegant Casual nights and dress standards were in the main well adhered to. The usual 'oddball dress rebels' occasionally appeared around the ship in their 'variations': guaranteeing to lower the tone of otherwise glamorous evenings. Fortunately most confined themselves to the Kings Court eateries in the evenings. . I just guess these people want to tell their friends they've been on the QM2 but in reality they could never admit that they have 'lived' her experience. The Kings Court buffet food areas often attract criticism on this site. It is actually ergonomically well laid out, well signposted for the various food options, and should not be difficult to understand. Though never actually eating there I often passed through the area during the day and it certainly appeared to be a popular eating venue. During the evenings the different areas are very tastefully divided and decorated with a series of sliding partitions to form separate dining options. We dined at the Lotus Oriental style restaurant and The Piazza Italian section on two occasions and on both occasions the setting, food quality and service were very good. The Boardwalk Cafe on 12 Deck proved an interesting find. Easily accessible from the upper decks, Grills Sun Deck on Deck 11, and the covered pool area. As the weather improved al fresco tables and a bar increased its popularity. Queens Grill food and service were maintained to their usual high standards and nothing was too much trouble for the friendly and professional staff. The table d'hôte menu was similar to that in the Britannia Restaurant with the option of choosing alternative dishes from the Grills a la carte menu. I have on many occasions voiced my opinion regarding the poor positioning of the Grills Restaurants on QM2. With the onset of the sunnier climes my views remain extant. Due to the length of this cruise we did, on a number of occasions, take a break from dining in the Grills and arranged through the Maitre d' to join a similar size table in the Britannia Restaurant for second sitting Dinner. We met some lovely fun people, were made most welcome and enjoyed excellent food and fine service. Queen Mary 2 does not suffer from a shortage of either deck space or sunbeds. Her more traditional stepped stern areas offer an abundance of space, as well as the upper decks and Promenade Deck. Vacant beds remained available throughout the sunniest days at sea. We found the majority of staff onboard both courteous and efficient. They certainly react well to a smiling face and friendly greeting. . Cunard caters for a truly international clientele and has in recent times, certainly the past 14 years, recruited its staff likewise: it has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever recruited primarily from the Indian or Oriental countries. That is its style. On this most recent cruise, at a table for six that I shared in the Queens Grill, we had the following nationalities; Maitre d': Italian, Head Waiters: French and Turkish, Sommelier:Indian, Table waiters: Chillian, Romanian and Macedonian. Two other waiters that I recognized from previous Grill restaurants were Indian and Filipino. Our Stateroom Butler was an immaculate Indian and the cabin steward again a Filipino. Just along the corridor could often be heard the delightful Liverpudlian tones of a female butler. Hardly a hotbed of Eastern European cheap labor recently claimed on these pages. During the first leg of 28 days, and out of some 29 nationalities, British passengers were the biggest single nationality but did not form the majority of passengers. The second leg saw our numbers barely reaching third place, considerably behind both Australians, taking first spot by a high margin, and Americans. In summary the Queen Mary 2 is a magnificent ship. She is well suited to these longer legged world cruise itineraries where her sheer speed can dwarf distances. Otherwise this was a tale of two legs. We found the conviviality, so prominent on Atlantic crossings, somewhat tempered on the first leg. This changed dramatically between Los Angeles and Sydney when the Australians arrived in force. They were there to have a good time and boy did they know how to enjoy themselves. All venues came alive and the atmosphere certainly became more convivial and lively. We did miss the quality and personality of Ray Rouse, Entertainment Director on all previous voyages. The Gentlemen Hosts, all of North American origin, were not the best we had seen. No matter what though, if one activity or venue does not suit your taste, there is always an abundance of quality alternatives on QM2: as long as you have the will to enjoy yourselves. .....and finally. I noted on our final day, one particular nice touch by Cunard. During the early morning arrival to Sydney, restaurant staff were on hand on a number of open decks with trolleys serving a variety of hot drinks, Danish pastries and croissants and rolls. Thank you Cunard. We had a lovely time. Read Less
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