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Sail Date: January 2004
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we ... Read More
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we finally arrived at Queen Elizabeth II terminal in Southampton for the voyage we seemed to have been waiting for so long. Even the weather smiled on us that day as the sun shone for the first time in weeks. The terminal was buzzing with excitement and embarkation was a very smooth operation. After 45 minutes in the waiting room, which was decorated with Cunard memorabilia, bell boys and white QM2 roses, we were ushered aboard willing ourselves to be impressed. There was no need, for as we entered the Grand Lobby, between ranks of white uniformed flunkies, this ship touched our emotions as none had before. Although we were not greeted nor offered assistance in finding our stateroom (a missed opportunity which did not bode well for service expectations), we wandered through this heart of QM2 impressed by the scale, richness and ocean liner tradition that oozes from the design. It is possible (if your eye sight is up to it) to stand with your back to the Samuel Cunard mural adjacent to the Royal Court entrance on Deck 3 and look through the Grand Lobby to the QM2 tapestry on the back wall of the Britannia Dining Room over 360 feet away! It was remarkably easy to find the way to our B4 grade stateroom on Deck 6 and we were suitably impressed when our South African stewardess greeted us by name in the corridor as we opened the door. ACCOMMODATION. The staterooms are a major leap forward for a Cunard ship, but no better or no worse than the latest staterooms on RCI, Celebrity, HAL or Princess. In design terms it is very simplistic (not even central light switching) and shows a strong art deco influences in the pale wood with black inlay headboard and furniture. Storage behind a neat bank of veneered doors comprises a double wardrobe with about 25 hangers, a second single wardrobe with a pull out rail for hangers from a suit carrier, four drawers, two shelves and a safe. For 2 weeks the storage is more than adequate and for longer trips there is always the free laundrette on each deck (4 washers, 4 dryers and 2 ironing boards for the technically inclined). Bedside tables with annoyingly stiff anti-roll catches, a dressing table / fridge / TV console with chair, height adjustable coffee table and sofa complete the furniture. Apart from the black inlays, pale red sofa and primary coloured art work, the colour scheme is generally beige and pale neutral. The shower room is more compact than expected, but with a huge shower tray and adequate storage size was never an issue. The internal layout of the B4 grade stateroom is similar in size and style to all B, C and D categories, with the exception that some C's (Standard Oceanview) have the combined space of the B stateroom plus its balcony and are huge. The only other grade of stateroom we saw was a P grade Mini Suite, which had identical dEcor but was 50% larger than the normal staterooms and had a walk-in wardrobe plus a more generous bathroom with full size bath tub. We were blessed with what has become known as a 'hull' balcony, an open balcony space within the hull with a rectangular opening cut into the top half of the deck height. The balcony is accessed by a glazed door in the floor to ceiling glazing of the stateroom. To me the location of this rectangular opening is a major design flaw, as it is impossible to see anything other than the sky unless you stand at the rail and look out. I can see no reason why the hole could have been made lower or a second hole cut below the first. If safety was an issue then why did they put a metal step a few feet convenient to the floor and compound it with furniture that lends itself to be stood on so that you can lean out of the balcony opening? The lounging furniture is a nonsense and takes up half the floor space. A table and chairs would be much more useful. That said, it was still good to have a balcony and we made good use of it - especially on the very rough Bay of Biscay crossing (when fresh air was sometimes need in a hurry and this type of balcony becomes much preferable to the unsheltered inaccessible 'glass' variety. The thinking behind these balconies I will touch on later. DINING. Pleased with our accommodation, it was with great excitement we ventured to the Britannia Dining Room. The photographs of this room catch the grandeur of the design but give no clues to its vastness, seating up to 1300 passengers at any one time. The vast illuminated glass ceiling over the double height space and curving double stairways gave the feeling of being in a large Edwardian liner. The space however is cleverly broken up and separated so that there are only a few places where you are aware of more than a hundred fellow diners. We were unlucky with our table companions (twice) and had no problems being moved which beggars the question why, with the computer based passenger data available in the Dining Room plus many months to plan it, was the dinner seating plan not more considered. Many of the people we spoke to in the first two days were also unhappy with their tables and had moved. After three restless nights we were invited to a table full of Cruise Critics (thank you Dan Tobey and Peter, Bill & Ray and Thulewx) and were set fair for the rest of the voyage. Much has been said elsewhere about service and food. All I will add is that, whether it be too few waiters, poor training, lack of planning or galley problems (and it was probably a combination of all four), service fell far short of what anybody could reasonably expect on the maiden voyage of an untried Cunard flagship. Service was very inconsistent and varied from the appalling to the acceptable. Food overall was a good banqueting standard. Ingredients were good, presentation was good but menus were sadly lacking in imagination and after a week it boiled down to a choice of fish, beef, chicken or pasta every night. If they can raise standards to those found in The Franconia Dining Room on the Caronia then they will have a winner. The 280 seater Queens and Princess Grills on Deck 7 are a complete and stark contrast to the Britannia, being very simple and most plain in dEcor. It must be said that initially I felt glad to be dining in Britannia with its wow factor dEcor, but after about a week it became a little overpowering (or maybe that was the stress of wondering what the service would be like each night) and the Grills started to look and feel more and more elegant each time I saw them! We heard that both these dining rooms also experienced service problems on the same scale as the Britannia. We generally took lunch in Kings Court on Deck 7, which is cleverly divided into four distinct areas by colour scheme and menu. Asian dishes; fish, meat and chicken; pasta and pizza; carved roasts; sandwiches; salads; - these delicious offerings and more were available at these four daytime buffets (Lotus, The Carvery, Piazza and The Chef's Galley). Again the only downside was the lack of staff at busy times when tables weren't being cleared quick enough for people to sit down. Against lunch buffets on other ships this compared very favourably. Like many other ships, QM2 has done away with the midnight buffet in favour of a late night buffet in Kings Court Piazza. Lunch in the Britannia was tried once, but strange table mates, haphazard service that included forgetting water and bread for the whole table, plus an uninspired menu meant the experience was not repeated. The alternative dining onboard has much to recommend it. Service and food in both Todd English and especially Kings Court Lotus were pretty good considering the stress on the staff by the second week. The rich dEcor of Todd English is an amazing concoction of styles from somewhere between Morocco and Byzantium - check out the tented entrance. Lotus (as well as Piazza and The Carvery) in Kings Court is transformed by screens and soft lighting into a series of charming and intimate casual dining booths. It seems that Todd English will soon be making a charge which is hardly surprising given the over subscription. but the Kings Court venues (apart from the Chef's Galley which charges $35 including wine) still remain an excellent free alternative to the main dining rooms. DRINKING. The bars onboard offer a variety of styles and atmospheres to suit every taste. Grand in scale and size, the three central bars adjacent to the Britannia Dining Room are ideally located for pre lunch or pre dinner drinks as well as for a quick one during a busy day tracking down those elusive souvenirs. Sir Samuels is modern and sharp in decor but colours, lighting and furnishing feel a little harsh and as a whole it doesn't strike me as a very inviting space. The Chart Room is Cunard elegance at its best. During the day very calm and restful and at night a sophisticated bar with live music - also one of the most stable places to be in case of storms! The much maligned Golden Lion was as expected, typical faux pub design (the steamer trunks and hat boxes were a step too far) but high on atmosphere which, as any Brit will tell you, makes any real pub more than just its decor. Always busy, this was the place for pub food, a pint and karaoke! The Veuve Cliquot Champagne bar is a very nicely designed corner of the Grand Lobby with a few art deco references, but blink and you'll miss it! The Commodore Club on Deck 9 became our favourite haunt. Restful observation room by day, it became sophisticated cocktail bar par excellence at night - even dispensing cocktails in Stuart Crystal, 'Jasper Conran' designed glasses which retail in the UK at $55 each! The dEcor with its dark wood and muted colours merely accentuates the shape and location of the space which, with the huge spell binding, bar mounted model of QM2, are the keys to its success. If you like to ride a roller coaster then you will want to drink in the Commodore in rough seas - those G forces are something else. Again, much has been said about the service in the bars. All I can add is that Cunard probably missed anything between 25 and 50% of its potential income from pre dinner drinks by having insufficient staff or inadequate bar facilities to cope with peak demand - with empty glasses on most tables and in many hands during the last 15 to 20 minutes before dinner, it was not uncommon to wait 5 to 10 minutes when actively seeking to be served. The Winter Garden is a strange mix of lounge and bar (which closed at 7.00pm) and was largely empty and underused once we reached warmer climes. It's dEcor is very tropical with wicker chairs, a trompe l'oeil ceiling full of palms and blue sky and a rather garish waterfall with bright fluorescent colours that seem out of place in this well mannered area. The entrance like a shrub lined park gate is a nice eye to detail. It strikes me that this is one of the areas that relates more to the Liner role than warm weather cruising and I'm sure it is going to be a bright and popular day lounge on cold grey North Atlantic crossings. One annoying aspect common to all these rooms was the smoking policy. If a majority are non-smokers, which is a fair assumption, then you would expect a well ventilated space in each room to be set aside for smokers. Unfortunately, on QM2 smoking is also allowed along the length of all bar tops which spreads cigarette smoke almost everywhere except the far flung corners of non-smoking areas in what have effectively become smoking rooms. ENTERTAINMENT. The main entertainment areas of the ship are grouped together forward on decks 2 and 3. In a few words, The Royal Court is a 'state of the art' theatre with a stage almost in the round and seating more akin to a luxurious cabaret lounge than a true theatre. The three or four shows we saw there were all technically superb, with great sightlines from comfortable bench or club seats. Dame Shirley Bassey gave two superb one hour celebrity guest concerts after a very rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay and laughed about it (no mean feat). Two production shows, La Passionatta and Rock @ the Opera, are very good and could be excellent once the cast eases into them more. Rock @ the Opera is worth seeing for the stage effects and costumes alone - well, I've never heard a stage set get applause before! Opera Babes, Magicians and Comedians we gave a miss. Curiosity drove us to witness Ruben Studdard killing us not so softly with some songs in between complaining how seasick he was and how drugged he felt (no mean feat on QM2 in a very calm Caribbean). Like a large portion of the audience we left early to enjoy a last cocktail. For me the real jewel in the crown is Illuminations. Theatre, cinema, lecture hall and planetarium - this space not only looks like a fabulous 1930's art deco Cinema, it also doles out excellent entertainment at every level. The illustrated lectures given by John Maxtone-Graham and Steven Payne were enthralling and packed to the rafters and the planetarium experience is mind blowing. Attending any of the lectures at the well laid out Cunard Connexions we deemed unnecessary when it became clear that they were being taped and screened on stateroom TV. The much vaunted interactive QM2 TV had not been fully commissioned so many of the functions were unavailable and, disappointingly, this included the normal details on ship course, speed, location and weather conditions. DANCING. The largest ballroom at sea is also one of the most stunning spaces on Queen Mary 2. The Queens Room is cunningly accessed via two Deck 3L fenestrated corridors housing the photo and art galleries in voids running below the raised Deck 3 seating areas on either side of the Britannia Dining Room. It is an impressive space richly decorated in blue and gold, with a lavish inlaid dance floor and sparkling crystal chandeliers above. The busts and memorabilia of Queen Mary and King George V add a sense of being somewhere exclusive. Not being a ballroom dancer I can't extend an opinion on the music or dancing offered there. If you venture through the Queens Room you reach the dark, double height space of G32, the supposed late night club. This is a big disappointment for me as a design and how it is used. From the richness of other public areas you are plunged into a hi-tech space with uninspired 60's retro dEcor. Maybe the designers were touching their caps to those two high points of 60's design, the France and QE2 (I jest), but the result is dull and uninspiring. Its convenient proximity to the Queens Room but remoteness from everywhere else, means that when the ballroom band stops playing there is usually a dichotomy of groups patronising G32 (the ballroom dancers V the partygoers). Throughout the voyage a combination of vocal group (how many Nat King Cole tributes can you take in 30 minutes!) and an inexperienced DJ (who looked all of 16) cleared the dance floor by half past midnight and kept all party fun to a minimum. Low bar returns from G32 must surely lead to a rethink and early changes. THE VOYAGE. Although the itinerary was predictable and traditional, the draw was in being the first to take a commercial voyage in the first Cunard 'Queen' for nearly 40 years. Nothing however, could have prepared us for the strength of welcome and the pure unadulterated joy of the inhabitants at most of our ports of call. The sailaway from Southampton was the beginning of a rollercoaster voyage of emotions which couldn't fail to touch even the most inveterate traveller. Maybe we left late because there was so much more luggage than Cunard had expected - well, this was THE Maiden Voyage, but nobody cared once we had backed up to Mayflower Park and that amazing firework display started crashing overhead to the strains of Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Crown Imperial and other stirring anthems. This was the sort of send off that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and tears well in your eyes! The fireboats sent their water high into the black night sky and the escorting flotilla of boats, small and large, made as much noise as possible as we began edging back down Southampton Water past Town Quay and Queen Elizabeth II Terminal with the Commodore returning the greetings on the deafening steam whistle from the original Queen Mary. We stayed, frozen by the cold wind, until Southampton disappeared behind us and then had the pleasure of travelling down in an elevator and chatting with Steven Payne who was as happy and excited as any boy with a new toy could possibly be. The first day at sea through The Bay of Biscay came hurtling at us with a high class storm to make the ship slowly roll and pitch like she was alive. We drove through seas which must have been reaching upward of 40 feet in height (in order to frequently drench the windows of The Chart Room on Deck 3) at speeds of up to 26.5 knots and the G forces in Stairway A were something to play with! Needless to say the dreaded mal de mare struck down many during that first full day. By day 2 the storm had abated and day 3 woke early to a warm welcome in Funchal, Madeira. After a stroll around the town in warm sunshine it was all aboard to a warm but polite send off by crowds in their hundreds. Day 4 woke to a loud raucous welcome from fireboats in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and crowds in their thousands (obviously word was getting around!). After lunching on land with friends living on the island, it was back to the ship for dinner and a late sailaway with a generous firework display on the quayside. Day 5 woke to an even louder arrival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. With crowds in their thousands to welcome us, the day would become one that will go down in folklore as one of the biggest receptions ever given by any port to a passenger ship. On the quayside the local association of carpet weavers created a vast QM2 carpet in coloured salt, the high speed oompah bands marched up and down in a way that only Spaniards can, folk dancers danced and crowds grew bigger and friendlier by the hour. Departure was originally slated for 5.00pm but the Las Palmas schedule to welcome QM2 would not be denied the chance to give a lavish 30 minute firework display par excellence, as we left behind us tens of thousands of adoring Canarians some two hours later. By the sojourn in the Canaries, the weather had warmed enough for sun loungers and steamer chairs to start appearing all over the open decks. The next 4 days were given over entirely to worshipping the ever strengthening sun as we sailed in a west south westerly direction. Time had come to explore the vast expanse of the outside teak decks. The aft sun decks 6 to 8 were the most popular with the timber loungers and green canvass covered mattresses filled to near capacity, especially near the pools. In spite of expressed misgivings, the duplex suites, the open seating of Todd English and the sunbathers of deck 8 all coexisted quite comfortably like the inhabitants of any sun kissed Marina or Lido might. The strange three deck shortcut open staircase from decks 8 to 11 is quite a climb, but at least it allows one to put a foot (even if it is only in transit) on the sacred sun deck 11which in sunny weather is reserved for Queens Grill passengers only. The climb up to deck 12 is worth it for here, and on the forward deck 13, there is more space and sun loungers than even a Carnival ship could fill. Equipped with an open air cafe, a pool with opening glass roof, two bars, jacuzzis, splash pool, sports and observation areas this is a sun seekers paradise, but strangely most of these areas were never more than 25% occupied. My only complaint would be that there is no shade in the form of awnings or canopies anywhere even in the vicinity of the Boardwalk Cafe. The other thing I could not get my head around was the sense of having 'splash pools' with only a few inches of water - surely they used to be called foot baths??? The heat was on by day 10 when we arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados and true to form we received a suitably relaxed and inform Caribbean welcome from the local brass band. One more day at sea and did the Commodore really say that we were currently doing 28.5 knots - it seemed we were hardly moving? Day 12 brought ours and the crews first tendering experience as we reached Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas. Having duly faced the intransigent and charming as ever officers of the US Immigration Department, we had a leisurely breakfast before taking the first 'open' tender of the day around 11.00am. The crew's lack of experience in handling the tenders, the unwillingness to fill tenders too full and the failure to be able to accommodate larger shoreside ferries against the tender platforms meant that the tendering process took longer than anticipated. This one assumes is something that can be overcome with practice and a little more forward planning. Moored in the very outer anchorage of the harbour, our presence in Saint Thomas must have gone almost unnoticed - we took the opportunity of this call to slip away to Magens Bay for an afternoon swim. All too soon Day 13 came and went, goodbyes were said, last meals were eaten, last cocktails shared and the triumphant arrival in Fort Lauderdale was upon us. We arrived out of the dawn to find the noisiest and most colourful fireboats yet throwing their red white and blue spumes high into the air. An unprecedented US Naval escort, a dozen helicopters and the most cacophonous reception from the famous landmark Condos made this welcome the cherry on the cake, a fitting end to a truly remarkable voyage. QM2, CRUISE SHIP OR LINER? Having once been the devil's advocate in the discussion of cruise ship or liner I now have to say that, having travelled onboard and having listened to authoritive sources, I know for sure that this ship has been built as a transatlantic liner. There is no cruiseship on earth that can sail at 26 knots through 40 foot seas and there is no way on earth that Mickey Arison has spent a 40% premium (over $200 million) for a cruiseship that looks like a liner! An interesting anecdote from John Maxtone-Graham credits Mickey Arison with being so inspired by the movie 'Titanic' as to want to create a dream of building the largest and most expensive transatlantic liner - why else would he want to buy Cunard? Stephen Payne described in great detail the research made into designing this ship so that it could handle any weather the Atlantic has produced in the past 25 years and be twice as seaworthy as QE2 (for example, a sea that produces a 10 degree roll in QE2 will only produce 5 degrees in QM2). Stephen also added that Mickey Arison told him 'I need seven decks of balconies or she doesn't get built', and how he was able to give him eight! John Maxtone-Graham amongst others has been disparaging about the 'hull' balconies but as he explained, these cabins produce more revenue with a balcony than they would if the balcony space was included in the cabin - so these balconies are purely revenue driven and without them the ship would not have been built! The other piece of enlightening comment from Stephen Payne was that nothing was allowed to compromise the design of QM2 as a transatlantic liner - something which should be born in mind when considering criticisms of the ship's cruising abilities and her unsophisticated warm weather outdoor deck spaces. On the aesthetic side, Stephen also thinks the funnel is too short but, save raising the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge, there was nothing to be done about it! So there you have it. The head of Carnival does have a dream and that dream is to re establish transatlantic travel by sea as a major rather than a niche market. Who amongst us can doubt that dream will probably come true? 2005 sees QM2 slated for 26 Atlantic crossings, which is already 42% of the year, and I believe the years following will see the Atlantic 'season' increase to whatever the market will support. She is utilised for cruising when the North Atlantic is too uninviting, like other great liners of the past, hence the seven day jaunts out of Fort Lauderdale and New York in December to March. Only market demand will decide if these warm weather cruises settle into premium or discount rates. I also believe that if Mickey Arison has gotten it right again, we will see a sister ship in service on the North Atlantic within 7 to 10 years. If as I believe, Queen Mary 2 has been built primarily for the 6 day North Atlantic crossing and if Cunard can overcome the annoying service problems caused by lack of crew or insufficient training, then I think she will be a huge success and succeed to the title 'Most famous ship in the World', if she hasn't done so already! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our seventh cruise with our two kids, two on QE2 transatlantic, two on Disney, one on Holland America to Alaska and one on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. Overall, an OK cruise but it did not meet our expectations, ... Read More
This was our seventh cruise with our two kids, two on QE2 transatlantic, two on Disney, one on Holland America to Alaska and one on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. Overall, an OK cruise but it did not meet our expectations, based on the amount of hype and publicity. People came away expecting to be wowed and I don't think most people were happy, unless you paid a small fortune to be in the Grill class. Good things: the planetarium, meeting passengers from other cruise ships in ports that wanted to be on the QM 2, interesting 12-course tasting menu in Lotus (Kings Court), crab cake in Todd English restaurant. Negative and need improvement: 1. Food was never the culinary experience we were hoping for. When you offer chili bean tacos for dinner (our dining companion got her two tacos with lettuce and bean chili, a la Taco Bell), we knew that the week was not going to be full of culinary experiences. There was plenty of food like steaks, roast beef, basic fish like turbot and sole etc. but nothing exceptional that was supposed to wow us. We really look forward to the gala midnight buffet but there was none - so we could not see what the kitchen staff was capable of. Only a basic spaghetti, burgers, hot dogs and cookies from 11 p.m. onwards. Not even nice cakes, tortes or pies as I look forward to a dessert before bed. $30 cover charge for Todd English is way too high. 2. Rooms - Ok but nothing exceptional. They need to add a set of curtains to allow a change area. With four people in the cabin, we had to change in the bathrooms which are small enough already. 3. Entertainment - You can't just cater to the over 60's with Big Band, Judy Garland, Chattanooga Choo Choo-type of songs. The Broadway style shows could have been better and catered to those of us in our 30's and 40's although Rock at the Opera was pretty good. G32 was pretty good but overall, the entertainment is focused on the much older crowd. 4. Kids program - Only 40 kids on board and no unique programs. Very nice of the staff to close at midnight - thanks. The kids got no souvenirs from the Kid's Club - something to remember the QM 2 like a T-shirt, CD holders, backpack, etc., like you get on other cruise ships and these would not have broken the bank. Small-cost stuff that would go a long way to advertising the ship. 5. Photos - all photos are $27.50 and I thought too pricey. Even the boarding photo that were actually 5X7, but with a border to make them 8X10 and were all the same price. 6. Architecture and flow - they need to relook how the King's Court traffic flows and how you access the Queens Room and G32. Very untidy. Overall, an OK cruise but the Cunard and QE2 standard was never met. I would say they never met the Disney or Holland America standard for an overall cruise experience - and yes, we could have gone on two premium cruises for the price. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
QM2 NY Caribbean Cruise, 11/26/04-12/06/04 Embarkation - always annoying. NY's port is just awful. We had to drop off our luggage at one pier, walk out to another pier to obtain a number. Then we were instructed to walk down the ... Read More
QM2 NY Caribbean Cruise, 11/26/04-12/06/04 Embarkation - always annoying. NY's port is just awful. We had to drop off our luggage at one pier, walk out to another pier to obtain a number. Then we were instructed to walk down the hall to a holding area where our number would be called. After only 5 minutes, we were told to walk all the way back to the original pier where we sat in a security line before checking in. Fortunately, we ignored the 1:30 check-in time and arrived very early at 11:30. Security opened up at 12:15 and we were on the ship by about 12:40. First impressions of the ship - it is really very big and at times hard to figure out how to get around even with the maps. DEcor is very nice - not over-extravagant and not cheap. Public areas on the ship: Britannia Dining Room - beautiful room, cozy but not crowded. Food was consistently good to very good. Kings Court - haphazard confusion; such a big ship but bottlenecking occurs here way too often. Queens Room - another beautiful room; very nostalgic of the big band era. Pub - great food, open space. Casino - seemed very small; only a few people create bottlenecks; lost my $$. Pools/Decks - spacious; never seemed crowded. Commodore Club - wonderful lounge, excellent waiters. A truly hidden secret. Winter Garden - rarely used room. I honestly never saw it being used. G32 - great layout for a disco; music was too '70s. DJ Ed admitted that he's required to stick to the oldies since the crowd tends to be older. Things to do: Spa - the best I've experienced at sea. Canyon Ranch is 1000% better than Steiner found on other ships. The first time I ever regretted booking only 50 minutes for a massage. Activities - not many going on. The ship tends to be more low-keyed. Shows - unfortunately, the entertainment was sub-par except for the Opera tribute. The tribute to Judy Garland seemed like something Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel would have put on. I heard many people complain about many of the shows. Shore excursions - basic excursions offered and fairly well organized. You can book on the TV, but some excursions forced you to run down to the tour office to book them for no apparent reason. Four of the five islands required tendering which makes those early morning excursions even earlier. Planetarium - good shows but they didn't seem as exciting as the planetarium shows I saw when I was a kid. Maybe I've grown up too much! They were more like IMAX shows. Though in both shows I attended, there were several people asleep snoring. Todd English - the food was wonderful and well presented but the service was spotty. At times the waiters and maitre 'd would check on things every minute, but when we had a problem with the tuna being overcooked, they disappeared. Plus we waited forever for coffee - came about 10 minutes after the dessert was served. Television - the worst at sea. Only a few channels which tended to repeat the same shows or movies throughout the entire 10 days. Trust me, the Thanksgiving episode of Friends gets pretty boring after the 5th day. Disembarkation - annoying again. We had to be out of the cabin by 8:30 and were to wait in the Queens Room until 10:45. No breakfast after 8:30, so the wait was unbearable. Fortunately, at about 10:15, they announced (in person) that our deck could leave before the other two decks ahead of us. Didn't make sense, but we were glad to leave after waiting 90 minutes. Overall: The ship is beautiful, well kept and very stable on the ocean. The large size makes it difficult to find your way around - I can't tell you how many times we had to cut through the dining room when it was closed because we went the wrong way. But there was little need for the gym because of all the walking. Cabins were standard for modern ships. The Commodore Club was a great retreat and the spa was wonderful. The service all over the ship was very good; not extraordinary but very good. Spotty service in Todd English. Activities during the day tend to be on the light side. Some may find it boring. My biggest gripe is the tendering. The ship doesn't fit in many ports. Only one port (Barbados) could take us. It's really a pain to have to wait for tenders all the time and in Martinique our tender had to sit in the water 30 minutes more because there was a backup at the pier. Overall, the 10 day trip was a very good one. We enjoyed ourselves but were never really wowed. Having been on Celebrity twice before, we feel that the QM2 falls slightly short on service and food but was still quite good. I would travel on QM2 again, but Celebrity would be my first pick and it's a better value. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Nice trip. The food was great and the ship was great. After reading other reviews we were surprised to find that getting on and off the ship was a fast process. We did hear others complain -- this was the most common complaint. The ship ... Read More
Nice trip. The food was great and the ship was great. After reading other reviews we were surprised to find that getting on and off the ship was a fast process. We did hear others complain -- this was the most common complaint. The ship has a huge reputation and people had huge expectations, so people complained about dumb stuff (like not getting horseradish with a steak -- ask for it, like at a high end steak house on land). I do think the embarkation complaints were legitimate, but not with us. The room was great, lots of space and great service. People complaining about having a hard time getting around the ship, I do not agree. It is a large vessel but manageable. The highs -- staff, the ship, the people -- not all old (I am 37 and met many my age), the food (except the food court -- I do not do buffets), the spa we used 5 times -- great, Todd English was the best (I had two meals) and service most of the time. No problems with reservation at the spa or Todd English, but do them early. The lows -- port of call visits too short, tendering was an adventure for my wife, not for me. Poolside band was not out long enough and drinks were hard to get while in the whirlpool (tough life). Also, they seemed to nickel and dime for soft drinks. I would use the QM2 again. We had rain and a cold/kind of rough first night/day and it was still worth the money. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
Using the Cruise Critic rating system, it's difficult to assign an exact score: high 4 or low 5. Were I teaching I'd grade our 02/05/05 QM2 cruise a B minus. Maybe it was the type of cruise: seven days from Florida, when our ... Read More
Using the Cruise Critic rating system, it's difficult to assign an exact score: high 4 or low 5. Were I teaching I'd grade our 02/05/05 QM2 cruise a B minus. Maybe it was the type of cruise: seven days from Florida, when our previous Cunard experience has been either transat or on long cruises, including legs of the QE2's annual r-t-w voyage. A week-long cruise from South Florida perforce attracts a different passenger mix. Maybe it was because we weren't in the Queen's Grill, but not that much, I thought, as apart from the opulent cabins and suites in the Grill classes, the experience seemed much the same regardless of where one slept. Maybe it's because QM2 has been so hyped that no ship could live up to the press this one got. THE EMBARKATION -- I'll start at the (awful) beginning. Boarding in Port Everglades was the worst I've ever encountered. The dreaded "computer problems" were blamed but never explained. It took about two hours in long, slow lines to get to the desk where one's documents -- all done in advance -- are processed and photo IDs issued. And we were lucky: if indeed you arrived -- as directed -- at 2:00 p.m. the wait was nearly three hours. As it was sailing was delayed by an hour or so to accommodate the backlog. A quart of vodka in the trusty rollaboard passed from shore to ship without comment. To skip ahead -- disembarkation was much better until we got outside the cruise terminal where a transportation Hell awaited us, seemingly unsupervised, with fights for taxis and no orderly system for queuing, parking, loading, etc. I presume this was not all Cunard's fault but it's an awful way to end a cruise. And $17, with tip, seemed an awful lot for a cab ride to an airport that's a five to ten minute drive away from the pier. THE ACCOMMODATIONS -- The D2 grade cabin, by contrast, was terrific. As all the inside cabins are the same, the only difference we enjoyed was our location, on deck 10, which otherwise is all Princess Grill mini-suites. The cabin itself was designed and furnished perfectly, with sufficient closet and drawer space and a small, but expertly laid out bathroom with a large shower. We never had a problem with hot water or HVAC: both were instant and ample. The decor, a light oak sort of wood-look primarily, was light and at the same time restrained and restful. THE SERVICE -- Our steward, Nelson, was invisible but in the best sense: we'd put on the door tag and the room was done. We never had any special requests; in large part because he took care of everything so well. (We're also the sort of people who clean up for the maid in hotels, so I guess that speeds the work: I wonder how they handle some of the cabins I've seen on this and other cruises when walking by an open door: they looked like a teenager's bedroom after a cyclone.) We hit it off with our table companions at once, so didn't bother moving but couldn't understand why Cunard would put World Club members (all of us) in the furthest corner of the dining next to a kitchen door. The food itself in the main -- Britannia -- restaurant was very good, considering the giant size of the dining room. Our waiter (Devender) and assistant waiter (Hakkim) were smooth and professional; their service to us was excellent. THE CRUISE -- Ours was one of a series of 7-day cruises to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands; Phillipsburg, St Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles and Basseterre, St. Kitts. We've been to all three ports more times than I can count. Except for a brief visit to all our friends on Front Street in Phillipsburg -- home of some of the best prices overall in the Caribbean -- we didn't get off the ship. San Juan, Puerto Rico was to have been the first stop but Cunard rearranged the ports, reportedly because of difficulties with the depth of water available underneath QM2 in San Juan. Dredging will be required before she can return, we were told. THE PASSENGERS -- Not, I'm guessing, the same mix of ages and nationalities you'd get on a crossing. The average age was older than we've seen in a while, perhaps as it was from Florida, perhaps as it was QM2, perhaps because it was discounted and heavily promoted. I'm guessing mid-60s and up covered most of the passengers with perhaps ten percent or a bit more less than 50 years old. Two striking blondes in their early 20s quickly gained the nicknames "Paris" and "Nicki" and not, I hasten to add, because of any similarity to Ms. Hilton's film fame; it's just that anyone that young and that blonde really stuck out from the herd. Lots and lots of Brazilians and Italians (but from Brazil?) and a first, for me, anyway; lots (fifty or more) Chinese passengers from the PRC and not from, say, California. My guess for a breakdown would be perhaps twenty percent Brits, fifteen percent other nationalities and the rest Americans and our often (until they vote) indistinguishable neighbors from the north... THE FOOD -- I say the food was very good as it always arrived cooked as ordered and even as it -- of necessity -- is plated in advance, it was hot when it was supposed to be hot and cold when it was to have been cold. I'm not crazy about the coffee, but seldom are: mine is always better at home 'cuz I can get what I want. What kept it from excellence was the absence, most of the time, of the ruffles and flourishes. Carnival ownership -- or perhaps more plebeian tastes -- have reduced the number of mains offered from seven or eight to five or six and luxury items: shrimp cocktails, caviar, escargots are seen only once if at all. Portions are small by American standards but perfectly adequate in the Continental sense of eating four of five courses. On the plus side, plates were almost always garnished in interesting ways: it always looked good. I enjoyed lunch in the Britannia most days because 1: I'm on vacation: the cafeteria is for work and 2: the items offered at lunch were often as -- or even more -- interesting than those seen at dinner. One complaint: chicken breasts are the moistened, formed kind instead of the real thing broiled. It's not an airplane: don't make it taste like it was prepared in a flight kitchen somewhere. "Tea" from three to four in the Queen's Room was pretty lame: a cup (not a pot) of tea followed by one pass or at most two by a waiter with a choice of finger sandwiches and sweets: no orchestra, nor that much or varied or interesting snacks. Room service breakfast, once, convinced us that it was worth the trek to King's Court or the main dining room for the morning meal. The room service menu itself looked pretty slim; we never ordered from it so cannot comment on the quality of their offerings. THE BOOZE -- We didn't do much exploring but the wine list is surprisingly full of good, reasonably priced wines. A particular favorite, an Argentine Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Septima was a great pairing with red meat (of which I ate enough to be drummed out of PETA for life) at $20 a bottle. Well-priced whites were abundant as well: we just didn't get to try many. Standard drinks are $5; the "Drink of the Day" was $3.75. Bar service was uniformly excellent. THE ALTERNATIVE DINING -- Todd English wasn't bad BUT: our orders were delivered incorrectly, meaning two appetizers for two of our table of four; the waiter pouring the bisque into the ridiculously large soup bowls inadvertently splashed some on a tablemate's dress; the beef tenderloin arrived very very very underdone (medium means pink, not bloody red but better bloody, I suppose, than overcooked) and we were served other people's wine. Which, for $30 pp, is unexpected to say the least. This restaurant was never full. To be fair, the bread basket was good. A happy surprise, though, was La Piazza; the sit-down Italian alternative restaurant which was both superb and free. The Deck 7 Lido-like area (King's Court in QM2 parlance) is divided up at night into the aforementioned La Piazza (Northern Italian); Lotus (pan-Asian) and the Carvery (think roast beef, but also fish, chicken and pork) as well as the Chef's Kitchen ($30 pp, including wines, for a demo dinner) and a section, confusingly also referred to as La Piazza, with a 24-hr buffet. All but the Chef's Kitchen are free, but no one seemed to know that? They were never filled. If price wasn't the bar, it certainly wasn't the food: a la carte prep and delicious. THE GUILTY PLEASURES -- I never went to the spa, so don't ask: all I can tell you is that soap smells nice. Prices seemed in line with what you see on land or on other lines. Ditto the casino: I don't gamble. It's not that I object to gambling, only to the losing money part. THE ENTERTAINMENT -- The shows were, measured against past Cunard standards, poor. Measured against some other lines, very poor. The comedian, Cary Long, wasn't all that funny (don't these guys talk to each other? Every shipboard comedian does packing, eating, getting around the ship jokes. "Been there, heard that," time after time. It's just not that funny) and at one point his material veered into the homophobic with a mincing portrayal of a flight attendant "interested" in some of his passengers. I guess trashing the gay passengers with hateful, inaccurate and ultimately dangerous stereotypes is OK with Cunard. I cannot imagine a Gentile comedian (or a Jewish one, either) these days mocking the Jewish guests with Yentl accents or portraying them with unflattering stereotypes nor, say, a white comedian telling anti-black jokes in an African-American dialect. It might have worked in a different context or in a different day and age but it still would have been in poor taste if perhaps unfortunately found more acceptance -- but I can't see how: it's 2005. My objections, voiced to the Assistant Cruise Director were listened to but not, I fear, heard. Paul Emanuel, a British singer, did a creditable tribute to Nat King Cole but it was more like singing Nat's songs if not always sounding like Nat (come to think of it, who could?) The "Rock the Opera" show seemed silly: the "Tommy" from Pinball Wizard looked more like Fonzie from "Happy Days." We missed most of the Judy Garland tribute; again, if you can't BE Judy, don't try: I've seen drag queens do better. (Come to think of it, who hasn't?) There was a Scottish pianist who tried but failed to channel the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis, and a Latin dance team who similarly tried but failed to move us with their passion. Again, not awful but nothing that rose above a level other lines have established. The classical music program (a harpist, one piano concert, a string quartet some evenings before dinner in the Grand Lobby) was OK: again, nothing awful, nothing great. Two lecturers, a retired US ambassador explaining the basis of making foreign policy (followed, during the Q&A, by a woman passenger who excoriated him for not telling everyone the "good news about Iraq" said "good news" being that somehow, somewhere, Americans are now helping Iraqi children learn how to brush their teeth AND his having omitted mention of the military help we've gotten from Poland. The continuing deaths from the conflict, both American and Iraqi, did not appear to interest her, oral hygiene -- apparently -- being of paramount concern.) He, and an author speaking on the history of the Caribbean, were pretty much it for enrichment, apart from the Canyon Ranch nutritionist ("Eat healthy." "Duh, here?") and the napkin folding and watercolor classes ("Always start by painting the sky.") for free: wine tastings were $25 or $65 depending on the quality of the wines. I'm sure there were dance lessons: we missed 'em. Likewise bridge was being played but was not -- at least from what I could see -- all that popular. First run movies were shown, pre-airplane, that is: "Sky Captain" and "Being Julia" were two films I saw on the program, if not in the theater. Dinner dancing was scheduled but not that well-attended; again, it all depends on the mix onboard. Good QM2 orchestra, though. THE PUBLIC ROOMS -- The "Illuminations" theatre was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps they have different shows on other cruises: our choice was two 20 minute films, both on the possibilities of life in outer space; one narrated by Harrison Ford. The Super Bowl was shown in the Royal Court (concert/larger) Theatre on Sunday: odd, indeed, to see it without commercials -- it was like on "Pay Per View." Never thought I'd miss 'em but I did. But New England won, so no matter. The Royal Court Theatre was technically advanced with a five-part riser, revolving stage, great sound and generally good sight lines if you aren't behind a column. But why are there columns? I've been in much larger shipboard show rooms without 'em... The Queen's Room (main ballroom)is located near the stern and accessed -- with some difficulty -- by corridors running over the first level of the Britannia restaurant. I'm not sure how I feel about it: the "band shell" arched opening for the stage is different, the decor (posters of Britain's Queens, a variety of colors that maybe work, maybe don't) felt somehow incomplete. Oddly, when it's empty it seems cavernous. Full, it felt cramped. G-32 (Meaning, "what" exactly?) is the disco, found beyond the Queen's Room. The decor is metallic, the shape rectangular, the chairs uncomfortable and the smoke thick. I kept flashing back to the scene in "Guys and Dolls" where Nathan Detroit has found a place for the oldest established permanent floating crap game: underground. The Main Lobby is the now-standard atrium at the center of the ship's traffic flow. It extends from Two Deck (Pursers office, round lobby) up to Three Deck (shops, offices) and glass elevators can carry you from there to Seven Deck where the Canyon Ranch spa, the Winter Garden, King's Court and Queen's and Princess Grills are found. All of Seven Deck is surrounded by an outdoor promenade: roughly 1.1 miles for three laps. The shops deserve mention if only for their lavishness and attendant prices: $600 for a belt from Hermes, 'frinstance. Todd English, the eponymous extra-fare dining room is, to say the least, colorfully decorated but -- like so much of the ship -- suffers for the details. The lobby is surrounded by faux-Etruscan olive oil jars in "picture frames" floating in space. The concept is Mediterranean, the antiquity is suggested by the resin "barnacles" applied to each jar. Fabric lines the walls and ceiling to evoke a harem tent, I guess, with a tufted ottoman the size of a queen size bed covered with pillows in the center of the room. But Mediterranean? Is Persia in the Med? Libya, maybe? Odd overall. Access to the stern pool, scene of Sailaway and deck parties, is logically through the TE restaurant except that, well, there's people eating there. So one must either find the nearly-hidden port side corridor or access the pool area from above or below. In addition to being hard to reach, the Eight Deck pool area faces five of the ship's most expensive -- and no doubt luxurious -- suites. Given the $2,000 or so per person, per day rates (on our cruise, the smaller ones were priced at $12K, the larger $15K, for seven days) I'd wonder if the sound of the reggae band was a bother at night. At dusk, before shutting the curtains, they look like Macy's windows: all lit up with all their luxe on display. The Winter Garden was sparsely used and not -- by a mile -- as attractive as similar rooms I've seen on other ships, among them Cunard's former CARONIA and Crystal's HARMONY. The Commodore Club, the bar we enjoyed the most, is two decks up on Nine and has lovely views forward by day but -- as light from the windows would distract the view from the bridge -- they're covered at night. It's a dark, paneled room with a magnificent model of the ship behind the bar. Two interesting nearby rooms are Churchill's to starboard, the ship's cigar lounge and to port the unused but attractive Boardroom with it's real-looking but really fake (for fire safety rules) fireplace. Below Churchill's on Deck Eight you'll find the ship's library but not before first finding the library's book and gift shop. Can you see those cards being swiped, and not to check out library books? Another spending op. The library itself is handsome with cabinets that appear to be burled walnut. Internet access is found at terminals here, as well as lower in the ship in the Cunard Connexions area on Deck Two. Access was reliable and relatively quick (faster than 56K, slower than cable or hi-speed) and priced at either fifty cents a minute or at lower per-minutes rates via package plans. Overall, the public rooms and areas are done in a wide variety of styles, colors, themes and finishes ranging from mild to wild. Decor is a personal taste: I got the feeling the designers wanted to evoke the splendor of the old Queen Mary and, for instance, attempt to do so with the long corridors midships on Decks Two and Three but (and I could be wrong) the bas-relief plaques on these walls that mean to look like bronze feel like resin. Similarly there's an abundant amount of "wood" on display everywhere and if indeed it's wood, there's a forest worth of it scattered around. Somehow, though, I'm pretty certain it's laminate. Real-looking, but not real. SEMI-FINAL THOUGHTS -- The Cunard World Club party, held on the last formal night at sea so without much competition, drew only 180 guests. Put another way, less than 10% of the passengers showed up for free drinks. Because it was a Caribbean cruise? Perhaps. Because she does what she's supposed to do -- drawing new passengers to Cunard? Perhaps. Still, I'm used to seeing a third to half of the passengers attending. With the exception of the German and French hostesses, who made it a point to introduce themselves to guests, the social staff was inexplicably distant from the passengers throughout the cruise. The social hostess, who we'd met when she worked for another line and who greeted us as we boarded, was never seen or heard from again. At the Cunard World Club party, there was no receiving line. As a result, Commodore Warwick was at times standing in the middle of the dance floor looking lonely while the cruise director spent his time chatting up his staff and officers and staff attending stood in tight little clumps and spoke only to one another. Hardly a way to interest you in coming back. FINALLY FINAL THOUGHTS -- The difference between the two Queens is not just their relative age. The QE2 carries, essentially, three classes: the Grills, Caronia, and Mauritania. There are -- for better or worse -- some real distinctions in terms of accommodation, food, service and perception. In addition, the Queen's Grill and Princess and Britannia Grill passengers comprise, if the ship is full, about 400-plus people, roughly a quarter of the average passenger total. The Mauritania passengers equal a bit more than that, perhaps -- again dependent on what sells -- comprising 30-35% of the total with Caronia passengers taking up the rest. QM2, by contrast, has the Grills and everybody else and everybody else -- even in the cheapest inside cabin -- has accommodations that rival anything at sea, category for category. If the Queen's and Princess Grills sell out, on a full ship they are much less of a factor, numbering again about 400 or so but on a ship which -- sailing at capacity -- can carry as many as three thousand passengers. So there just aren't -- in relative terms -- that many high-dollar, highly selective, well-traveled passengers on board. There may indeed be plenty of well-traveled passengers on board, many of 'em very well off and with plenty of cruise experience but they aren't there to be catered to, in the same way or in the same strength, as was the case before on QE2. And that diminution of the top end shows. QM2 is aimed a bit lower. Apart from the QG lounge, a small deck area astern on Deck 11, more caviar and -- to be sure -- much more in the way of service and amenities, there isn't the distance from an M5 inside with an upper and lower berth in less than 100 sq. ft and the duplex penthouse suites on QE2. The top end on QM2 is nicer, sure; much nicer in fact, but so is the bottom. The cheapest QM2 cabin is double the size of the cheapest QE2 cabin. And everybody but the toffs eats in two shifts, or whenever they like, and with varied dining options unavailable on QE2. Class distinctions are thus lessened on the newer ship. Most of all, though, the difference is an inevitable result of what you may -- or may not -- think of as progress. Ships costing $800 million don't get built these days unless someone in Miami thinks they can make a profit. Similarly, ships costing $800 million use up an awful lot of that money on technology. Sometimes there isn't money left over for things like real wood and real luxury and really big shrimp cocktails. Don't get me wrong -- she's a wonder of our age. And they seem to have solved most of the problems I'd read of in her first year of operation, mainly with the service onboard. The ship is spotless, the crew is happy and Commodore Warwick still captains Cunard's flagship. These are vitally important to the ultimate success of this ship. But there's still something missing, or at least there was last week on this cruise. The unalloyed glamour and swank, the special feeling of being on what was long seen to be the last great ocean liner, isn't there as it once was on QE2. To be sure, it's probably not there on the QE2 anymore, either: she's getting on. But QE2 was British to the core, (for good and, well, sometimes less than good) built and staffed and run by an organization that really did go back to the days of Samuel Cunard. QM2 has lots of posters detailing that 165 year history but is run by a company without that history. Don't take this as critical of Carnival: without them, there'd be no QM2. But don't believe it's the old Atlantic Ferry, or a reincarnation of the Queen Mary that's now in Long Beach either. It's not. Nor was it meant to be. Perhaps, in 30 years or so, if she has the luck to have the long and mostly distinguished career QE2 has enjoyed, QM2 will be even more famous than she is today. It'll be interesting to wait and see and even perhaps -- on occasion -- to revisit her and so revisit my first impressions. Many thanks for sticking around until the end. I hope reading this was as enjoyable for you as writing it was for me. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
Just came back from 2 weeks Caribbean cruise from New York. Overall I liked it and would go again. We did not have any problems being in Britannia category. We met people from both Grills at the pool, in the Spa, in the Kings court, in ... Read More
Just came back from 2 weeks Caribbean cruise from New York. Overall I liked it and would go again. We did not have any problems being in Britannia category. We met people from both Grills at the pool, in the Spa, in the Kings court, in theaters, etc. It was just the same as on all other ships: some travel in luxury, some more modestly. Why there is so much talk about "classes" on QM2 is beyond me. But I do not think I got my money worth. My inside cabin on Penthouse floor was $6,000 for two with lots of additional charges being way too much more then on other ships. Especially, at the Spa. Just to use sauna and steam room we had to pay $30 p/p - p/d. They give discount when using 3 or 5 days, but it has to be consecutively. It may work on crossings, but when you are visiting islands for 2 weeks, yet have 5 full days at see, it would be nice if they adjust their policy and apply the discount to those days. When I asked for it the Spa manager, she would not hear of it. The so-called Shore and Shopping expert never had an answer about shore, only shopping. When I asked which beach she would recommend, her answer was I do not know. I do not go to the beach. I guess there is no commission to Cunard when their guests visit beaches. Staff was friendly and accommodating. Everywhere we saw smiles, but everywhere it looked like there is not enough staff. Food in Britannia and Kings court was good. There was enough staff cleaning after customers at Kings court, but very few to assist with trays and serve drinks and coffee/tea. Britannia is a separate story. Our waiter and assistant waiter were taking care of 5 (?!) tables totaling 22 people: 6+6+4+4+2. They were very good, professional, nice and accommodating. But is was physically impossible for them to provide necessary service to all 22, no matter how fast they were running (yes, running) between our tables. Same goes for the wine/liquor waiters  one waiter serving wine, cocktails, hard liquor and mineral water. They were covering big sections of the dining room and were always hurrying from table to table. There was no time to stop and offer wine or drinks. We had to ask and wait. Since most of the time we only required mineral water  we were not a priority. Dinner lasted always at least 2.5 hours. Only because we really liked our waiters we decided not to complain. Our inside cabin on 10th floor was very small, definitely under 150 sq. ft. It was comfy and well appointed. I liked the linens. The bathroom was larger then on other ships. Taking the shower was an experience by itself: the water temperature was changing every 20 seconds; those little bottles with toiletries were extremely hard to squeeze. I had to ask my husband each time I needed to use them, and I have pretty strong hands. I noticed that my cabin was not vacuumed for several days. I had to call and ask for it (?!). There was no towel sculptures on my bed. Probably our steward had to take care of too many cabins as well. The TV in the room was not good at all. Several channels were not working properly. When switching channels the sound had to be adjusted immediately, because either my neighbors could hear my TV, or I could not hear anything. The remote control was so inconvenient, that changing volume or channels was not an easy task. The choice of programs was simply poor: few old and older TV shows/sitcoms and 4 or 5 old and older movies repeated over and over again. Same movies were in the movie theater. Also the outside view TV channel was not on most of the time. It is important for an inside cabin to be able to turn on the TV and see the outside. Usually it is the view from the bridge. Entertainment was OK. Excellent production shows. The singers and dancers were great. Unfortunately, Cunard was ignoring second sitting guests. There was additional entertainment often in the ballroom at the same time as second sitting shows. We also did not have the opportunity to enjoy some music before dinner. We are not smokers and drinkers, and were not hanging out at bars. The little music they offered was in the bars. Nothing in those beautiful halls and hallways. Excellent library. Plenty spaces for sunbathing and relaxing. Always enough chairs and towels. According to daily program, the pool and two hot tubs on deck 8 are off limits to children under 17. But the kids were all over, all 357 of them. If QM2 would at least put up a corresponding sign, just like they did on the deck for Grill guests, kids and their parents could be reminded. Except being beautiful and differently constructed, QM2 is just another mass production cruise ship. I would not speak for those in Grill accommodations, but for average cruiser it is definitely not worth 32% - 30% more than other 4.5 * ships and I would only go again if and when I find good deal. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Thoughts About the Queen Mary 2 I recently completed a round trip voyage from New York City to the Southern Caribbean and Central America on the QE2. Unlike those slab-sided floating hotel barges called cruise ships, the QE2 is a real ... Read More
Thoughts About the Queen Mary 2 I recently completed a round trip voyage from New York City to the Southern Caribbean and Central America on the QE2. Unlike those slab-sided floating hotel barges called cruise ships, the QE2 is a real ship. She has a long knife-edge bow, which flares to the main deck and a rounded stern. Her bow slices through the sea rather than shouldering it aside as do the rounded bow ships. Thus she pierces waves rather than bouncing off them and shuddering to a stop. Her upper decks are built with step backs in wedding cake fashion thus decreasing weight overhanging the bow and stern and reducing pitching. Her flared bow and rounded stern limit the pitching and her beam and stabilizers limit the rolling. Despite 70 mile per hour headwinds while sailing the Atlantic back to New York, I never felt her roll more than 3 degrees. She was by far the most comfortable riding ship I have ever been aboard. However, her great size is also one of her limitations. Because she has a beam of 148 feet and a draft of 33 feet, many ports cannot handle her. St. Thomas was created by and for the cruise industry; yet we had to anchor out and tender in, because the pier could not handle us. We were scheduled to dock in Port Moin in Costa Rica, but because there was a slight swell, we were at risk of hitting the channel bottom and thus could not dock. The swell also prevented our tendering and thus we had to skip our scheduled visit. Because no other port in the vicinity of our scheduled itinerary could accommodate the Queen, we basically had to spend an extra day at sea. The ship is rated to carry 2,600 passengers with 1,250 crew. Yet it never felt crowded because the ship is so large. That is it never felt crowded until it came time to disembark for tours. We would assemble in huge indeterminable lines waiting to get off. Its large size also meant that one had to frequently walk nearly a quarter of a mile to get from one part of the ship to another, a hardship for many of the elderly passengers. Speaking of elderly passengers, this was definitely the oldest crowd I have ever sailed with. I would guess the mean age was 75. We all know that the elderly have trouble hearing. Maybe that is why they turned the volume up so loud in all the showrooms and elevators. I literally had to cover my ears when riding the elevator, to withstand the floor announcements. One presumes that the after hours disco was designed to attract a younger crowd, whom one would think had adequate hearing, yet even here the amplification was so painful that I could not stay and dance. Entertainment On most ships, the show dancers and singers appear to have graduated from Miss Portabello's School of Tap and Dance for Precocious Children from Pocatello, Idaho. However the QM2's performers have been recruited from conservatories from all over the world. They are, without a doubt, the most talented and skilled performers I have seen at sea. More importantly, the productions numbers have been designed to showcase the talent. The Russians were allowed to do kazatskis and leaps, the Argentineans tangos; the Spaniards Flamenco; the Americans tap and the English ballet. The singers could sing arias as well as belt show tunes. Truly it was Broadway quality entertainment. For such a large ship, there was a surprising lack of things to do. The lounges on most ships have different themes at night, such as Latin, Country and Western, Jazz, Ballads and American Classics. However, the QM2's lounges featured the same three pianists who rotated between them every hour, so all basically played the same music, none of which was conducive to dancing. There was a formal dance orchestra who played the Queens Room, but the most adventurous they got was a fox trot. During days at sea, fascinating lectures by gifted speakers were offered. On our trip we had lectures by English theater critics and biographers and a news producer from New York One, all of whom were quite enjoyable to listen to. However, only one such lecture per day was given. There were also arts and crafts and computer classes offered as well as the usual games of trivial pursuit. Thank God the QM2 has the largest library afloat. You do a lot of resting and reading on this ship. The weight training and aerobic exercise room has the finest equipment and was never crowded, as the average passenger would have a heart attack after schlepping the quarter mile to the forward hinterlands of deck 8. Unfortunately, it was not possible to take a shower, steam or sauna after workouts, because the only such facilities are located in the Canyon Ranch Spa, which charges $30.00 for a day pass. The Queen Mary 2 is the only ship which has a planetarium, which to me, as an amateur astronomer, was a great disappointment. It has become very difficult to observe the sky from land secondary to light pollution. So I was looking forward to exploring the night sky from the dark ocean. However, cruise ships tend to be lit up like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and the forward observation deck was encased in plastic wind panels, which distorted the view of the sky. The planetarium itself was used to show 20 minute Nova style space movies and was not used for the purpose for which a planetarium is designed, that is to teach the constellations and motion of heavenly bodies in order to understand what one sees at night. The Classless Society Cunard is the only line left which still separates its passengers into first, second and third class based upon the cabin rented. The only areas off limit to us in steerage were a lounge, the dining rooms and one sunbathing deck. However, we could stare down upon the upper-class from our vantage point on deck 8 and saw that they look no different from us in their bathing suits. In addition, their dining room was on deck 7 and ours on deck 3, a far more comfortable place to dine. Service The service on the QM2 is certainly a lot more formal (some would say stuffy) than on other cruise ships. However, I would say the personnel were friendly but reserved. The staff smiled and was gracious. They were attentive to our individual needs but did not become part of our lives. We exchanged no baby pictures and addresses, as I have done on other ships. Cabins We had one of the balcony cabins built into the hull. There had been many complaints on the web about these balconies, as they do not permit a view of the sea when sitting. In reality, they are approximately a four foot high by eight foot long cutout in the steel hull with the bottom of the porthole approximately 40 inches above the deck. One can stand at the rail and have an unimpeded view. When sitting, your view is limited to the sky. However, I found these balconies delightful. They are by far the largest I have ever had at sea and measured approximately ten feet by six feet of usable space. There was room for full lounge chairs, which could be placed perpendicular to the rail offering one the sounds and smells and fresh air of the open sea without the lack of privacy found in the more open balconies of the upper decks. One could galavant naked with impunity in these recessed balconies, an act which would be unbecoming in an upper class berth. And I bet a lot more babies were conceived while standing at the rail enjoying the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, than were in the penthouses above. The cabins themselves were quite comfortable and adequate. The beds were comfortable and the duvets scrumptious. But forget visions of wood paneling as all the built-ins were constructed from Formica. Whether this is to accommodate safety regulations limiting the use of flammable materials or because Cunard decided to skimp on money, I can't say. However the workmanship was top notch and the overall effect visually pleasing. I don't know if wood burns more easily than does Formica, but plastic laminates give off far more toxic fumes. Dining I saved my comments about the food for last because it was the most disappointing part of the trip. The appetizers, soups and desserts were all excellent, but the entrees were repetitive and uninspired. They must have served rack of lamb five nights out of the twelve days of our trip. There was not a piece of fish on the ship that could be found that was not seriously overcooked. While they did serve fish with fish knives, a serrated knife would have been a better implement. One of the newer trends found on cruise ships is alternative dining, in which each night you choose which restaurant to attend and what time to go, sort of like dining out in New York. However, one of the attractions of cruising that I find delightful is the sitting at a large table with strangers. This gives you the opportunity to meet many different people and I have always found it to be one of the special delights of cruising. At my table on this trip, were an eclectic mix of my family consisting of myself, my wife and a five year old; a 60 year old bleached blond gay couple from California and a God-fearing black Baptist couple from Long Island, he a retired New York City police officer and she a retired school teacher. This made for some fascinating conversation and an enjoyable dinnertime experience, which would have never happened at an alternative restaurant. One night we did try Lotus, the Asian themed alternative restaurant, which offers a 12 course tasting menu. In reality, it was too bland and Frenchified for my taste, offering none of the savory flavors of Asian cooking. Those who attended the Carvery and Todd English (the prestigious haute cuisine restaurant) all reported the food was no different from that of the main dining rooms and certainly not worth the $30 per person surcharge. All in all, most were disappointed in the food. At least, thank God, they did not parade around with the baked Alaska. Addendum: As an overworked, overachieving New Yorker, I find cruising to be an effortless recuperative vacation. Just show up at the door and everything is done for you. Kind of like the old Catskill Borscht Belt, but with better taste. Go to the Caribbean to rest and recuperate and enjoy the sandy beaches and warm tropical waters. Do a little swimming, snorkeling and golf. Frankly, all the Caribbean islands are pretty much the same, so I prefer to go to those with good economies and no poverty so I am not constantly assaulted by the locals trying to sell me something I neither want nor need. Unfortunately, the very places I like to visit are hideously expensive and the hotel rooms usually are musty with mildew. That is why I like cruising. Both accommodations and the food are better and you certainly get a lot more value for your money. You get to see new sights every day without pack or unpacking; they just move your hotel for you while you party and sleep at night. Many of the cruise lines have recognized that huge numbers of their passengers come from New York and so they have been basing more and more ships in City. The savings in airfare make up for the extra travel days. Besides, on this type of vacation you are really not in a hurry to get anywhere because it is the cruise itself which is the vacation. To accommodate the growing trend in cruises embarking from New York City, Carnival Corporation is building a new port in Red Hook, Brooklyn and Royal Caribbean has built Port Liberty in New Jersey. Cunard has created the Queen Mary 2, the first ship built to be an ocean liner in the last 25 years. It sails from the Hudson River piers. The Queen Mary 2, recapitulating the Cunard heritage of great ocean liners, tends to be a bit more formal than other cruise ships. They have frequent dress up nights, including formal nights, masked balls and costume balls. Frankly, I go on vacation to rest and getting dressed in a Tuxedo is not my idea of rest, but then I was never a party animal. However, my five year old son loves to get dressed up; he is the only five year old I know who insists on wearing his clip-on tie to kindergarten, which he usually attaches to his t-shirt. So he was just thrilled at the opportunity to wear his Spiderman costume to the masked ball and his pirate outfit to the Caribbean ball. I was perfectly content to appear in torn jeans and a t-shirt as a deck hand. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
Since this board has been very useful, I wanted to contribute my experience on the Queen Mary 2, in April 2006. Embarkation: I flew from NY to Heathrow; there were several easily located Cunard reps gathering people for the transfer to ... Read More
Since this board has been very useful, I wanted to contribute my experience on the Queen Mary 2, in April 2006. Embarkation: I flew from NY to Heathrow; there were several easily located Cunard reps gathering people for the transfer to Southampton. We killed time for 90 minutes, then hopped on a bus to a local airport hotel for Cunard's courtesy lounge (tea/coffee & cookies) to kill more time so that we wouldn't arrive at the pier too early to board. Luckily, we only had to spend 20-30 minutes there but it was nicer than remaining at the airport. Embarkation at Southampton was awful - the worst I've ever seen. The problem was that this particular sailing included 400 passengers who had disembarked from the QE2 that morning (the end of the world cruise) and had transferred to the QM2 for the trip back to NY. With 400 passengers at one time, the check-in process was extremely slow and then there was another line to go through security and then a holding lounge before being allowed to board the ship. Luckily, I'm a platinum member so had priority check-in which bypassed one line and allowed me to scoot into the security line. But most people were very cranky. Once on-board, I went to my cabin & got organized. Cabin: I booked an inside on Deck 6 which was fine. Nice decor (light woods, gold/gilt duvet) and plenty of storage for one person. Good lighting, mini-fridge, TV, & all the normal conveniences. (Good heat/A/C controls which were quiet and accurate). Bathroom was small (shower only) but that's what I expect. This cabin (#6213) was near stairway C which was fairly mid-ships which is handy for traipsing all over (up/down and end to end). Once in a while, I'd come down Stairway A, and boy, it seemed miles away from my cabin! Steward service was fine - unobtrusive. Meals: Second seating in the Britannia restaurant. I was at the doctor's table, which is usually a fun table with 8 passengers and one or both doctors for formal nights. This time, no-one but me went to dinner the first night; everyone came the second night; and the other four nights were only 4 of us (& the dr.) Since the other 2 couples didn't have the courtesy to let the maitre d' know that they weren't coming, we waited 20 minutes for them each night and had four of us marooned around a large table. This wasn't a great situation (one complainer, one cynic and one nice lady...and then me) so the dinner experience was marred. Food was so-so; not a lot of variety and adequate - nothing "Great" but nothing inedible. Service was very good; friendly but not cloying or effusive; professional. Had daily breakfast & lunch in the Kings Court (their buffet process, with four different areas for Italian, Asian, Carvery, & deli). Again, food was adequate. Lots of selections but real pain wandering through all four areas checking out the menus (I suggested that they post menus at the entrances.) Desserts were the low point. Fresh fruit was plentiful and ripe, lots of varieties; also, interesting cheeses; fresh sushi too. Activities: This is where Cunard shines and the reason I sail on their ships. Quite a variety of activities that are different from the normal "scarf tying" on many other ships. Great lecture program with Oxford professors - at least 3 lectures a day, that were attended by 200+ people. Topics included architecture, history, science and well-being. Really, really high quality speakers who know their stuff and are good presenters - no reading from their notes! Also, 3 team trivia sessions per day that were well-attended (smart people!!) Plus two dance classes most days (70+ people at those). Not to mention movies, spa (Canyon Spa), casino, bars and walking on deck. Afternoon tea in the Queens Lounge was an event - white tablecloths, servers wearing white gloves, silver serving pieces, etc. Entertainment: Another superior area! With only six nights, there were two meet/say farewell to cruise staff shows, but 3 high-quality singing/dancing shows that were different from other ships (no '50's, Broadway hits, etc.). Had a singer who has performed in Broadway and West End shows and was featured one night - very popular. Also, a magician/apparitionist/blah blah. Not my thing, so didn't go. Quite a variety of music was available in the different lounges - jazz trio (after the shows, the other musicians joined them for jam sessions); classical group; pianists; harpist; Caribbean band (Xtasea) which was very good - although they played Yellow Bird, they had a very wide repertoire; and the dance orchestra. Six gentlemen hosts were on board to dance with single ladies and they were exceptional. They weren't all great dancers but they were friendly, didn't take long breaks or disappear and danced for 3 hours straight each night. They also hosted different dinner tables each night. Public areas: Another shining area! Dark woods (REAL wood, not formica), crystal and brass pre-dominate. Lots of metal friezes; glass murals and rich tones and materials. Everything - carpets, walls, furniture - is well maintained; no stains, dings or scuffs. Interesting art work in all the stairwells and a great display of photos & text tracing Cunard's history. The show lounges are well designed - elegant in appearance with no bad seats; they're two level with multiple entrances so no long lines. In summary, this is a beautiful ship that usually carries a range of passengers - US, British, French & German; range of ages; who are avid travellers. Food is acceptable, what I'd expect on any ship that serves 2500+ passengers. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2006
This cruise on the Queen Mary 2 is a celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary later this year. We have a sailing on the new Crown Princess that was originally scheduled to celebrate this event but then this great deal on the Queen Mary ... Read More
This cruise on the Queen Mary 2 is a celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary later this year. We have a sailing on the new Crown Princess that was originally scheduled to celebrate this event but then this great deal on the Queen Mary 2 came along. We'll still be on the Crown but this one looks to be a great way to celebrate what with 6 full days at sea. Plenty of time to reflect on the last quarter century together and prepare for the next. Blah Blah Blah...enough of that sappy stuff for now....facts about the hotel please! If you choose to park here it's all about convenience. We drove right up to the hotel where they took our car and will store it while we are on our cruise. That was also the last time we will have to touch out luggage. We easily arranged for it to be taken to the airline to be checked in before our flight. Once there, Cunard representatives will take it to our stateroom on the ship. If you get a chance to stay at this hotel, do so. There's another Hyatt not too far, the Hyatt Grand Cypress, and it too is a marvelous hotel...almost a city unto itself. This one has a couple of really great restaurants that are first class all the way....but not stuffy about it. We were happy that our daughters Sydney and Whitney were able to join us for dinner here at the hotel then a movie in our room. If the ship sinks we'll be even happier about that. New York in 4 hours The plan was to take the Cunard transfers from JFK airport in New York City to the ship ($80). But with our flight arriving at 10am I thought it would be a nice surprise for Lisa to go on a tour of the city first. On arrival we proceeded to baggage claim where a really nice Cunard representative promptly met us. They agreed to take our luggage to the ship when much to our surprise (ok to Lisas surprise) my native New Yorker brother Michael whisked us off for a whirlwind tour of the city. The interesting part of it was that we saw everything wed ever heard or seen about New York and really captured the flavor of the place. We drove for most of it but got dropped off to walk around Times Square which was quite a treat. But the biggest treat was a stop at celebrity chef Bobby Flays Mesa Grill. This was absolutely one of the best meals weve ever had. Check this out: They had hot croutons on the Caesar Salad. Not boxed. Not from some bag. Not old and worthless; fresh and hot. Lie to me and send me an email telling me that you get that a lot on salads at places you go to eat. Doesnt happen. The croutons were just one example of the extreme attention to detail given to everything on the menu here. If you ever get the chance to visit, do it&.and get someone who LIVES in New York to show you around. I saw a lot of open tour busses which I was told are also a great way to see the city but a personal tour, much like the personal tours I recommend on Caribbean Islands, is the way to go for sure. New York is a great, friendly city with a lot of history. A perfect place to visit prior to a sailing on the world famous Queen Mary 2 I thought. The only problem was that by the time we got to the ship Lisa was bordering on becoming a babbling idiot from sensory overload, with me not far behind. Towards the end of the tour our driver dropped my brother off at his place and proceeded to the Brooklyn Cruise Port (aka : Red Hook)&.but not without some help from calling someone who knew how to get there. Id heard that ground transportation people in New York were kinda challenged in finding the place but didnt realize how that could be until we took in the whole city in a matter of hours: The cruise port is really not that big of a deal here: There are just so many other way more legendary, noteworthy, famous and historical places that this place pales by comparison. It really is located in an odd place and getting there is kind of tricky too, especially if youre a Dominican driver who speaks very little English and reads English directional signs even less. We made it though and our very nice new New York driver friend, Jose, will be getting calls from friends we recommend him to. Very nice man. Nice enough, I guess, that he didnt have to go through any security checkpoints as wed experienced in all other ports wed sailed from, especially Florida ports. We could very well have been driving an atomic bomb on wheels and no one would have been the wiser. Pretty darn strange for a city whos name usually evokes memories of the king daddy of terrorist events. It was almost scary how little security there was. We drove right up in front of the terminal which had the same exact guys (I am just sure of it) directing traffic as they have at Disney World&right down to the reflective but tasteful outfits. I kept thinking Jose was going to tell us we were parked in Minne 88 or Pluto 34 for future reference. It was a definite Mickey Mouse operation. Now before I get to my first impression of Cunard and the Queen Mary 2 I need to back track a little bit. Before our very first cruise I thought cruising would be: · A bunch of really boring old people · A bunch of really snobby people (I would have to try hard to fit in) · The ship rocking would make me sick (in my mind I could picture myself hanging over the side of the ship barfing) · Really wonderful food prepared and lots of it · A very dressy, upscale ambiance It didnt take long to find out that most of those misconceptions were false. On Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines I found people like us; somewhat normal. Even on Celebrity I found much of the same. Ok maybe there were a few snobby people on Celebrity but their attitude seemed centered around their yearning for the cruise experience of yesterday, when slot machines paid out coins, everyone was quiet during the lifeboat drill, and every single person had a story about World War 2 to share&from personal experience. Now back to present day, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and Cunards Queen Mary 2. My first impression was that Id walked into my misconception of what cruising would be prior to our very first sailing. Embarkation went smoothly. Passengers in the upper class cabins were afforded an express line as were those who were handicapped. The line was fairly long but moved quickly. Thats really saying something considering the average age of the people in line but a trio of very direct-speaking Cunard staff members kept the flow regimented and consistent. &was this because theyd learned that old people take direction really well if they are stern and official looking? Im not good at guessing exact ages but if there was anyone in the line under 70 it would have surprised me. Now dont get me wrong; I have nothing against old people. I will be one soon. I take that back, I will never be old. These groups, though, looked, acted, smelled (I think someone pooped in their pants) and for the most part, were really old. In fact, let's stop using the world old right now. Lets call them Cunardians. I was concerned that the misconceptions Id had about this cruise were actually going to come true. Put that on hold for later, dont make up your mind now, wait and give it a chance, I told myself. After about 15 minutes we had been segregated into upper and lower class lines. The upper class line was short and moved faster but there seemed to be fewer of them. I wondered if most had used a private entrance and the upper class passengers we saw were first-timers or lost. We had reached the point in the embarkation process where we would look for one of the 17 check-in counter positions to open. We would then be motioned to come over to complete the process. A nice touch here was that a Cunard shore staff member did that for us then walked us over to the open window. On part of the process that they do different here is print our boarding card with our photo on it that they take right there. Had I known this I would smiled. Instead one of the cool mementos I would take home to put in the pile with the rest of them would have a solemn mug shot on it. Of course, I didnt tell Lisa; why should SHE get a chance to look good when I was robbed of it? On from there we went to have our welcome aboard photo taken then get on the ship. We walked straight toward the photographers but for some reason the upper class passengers (lets call them the Uppers) walked through a little room. I couldnt see in and am not sure what happened in there but it didnt seem to slow them down very much. Maybe a quick massage on the run, slam down a shot of 150-year-old Scotch, or a quick battery check on the pacemaker? In any event we made it quickly to the entrance to the ship where they used hand-held bar code scanners to let us board. As we entered the ship, lined up on both sides of the hallway were white-gloved QM2 crew members. I paused by one, allowing them the time to offer to show me to my stateroom. I figured that was what they were there for. Nothing, Not that I needed help mind you but Id heard that this was what they did and at this point I was still trying to do it right fool them into believing that I was one of the gang. I paused by another then another. Still nothing If the crewmembers werent there to greet me, what WERE they there for? A show of force? Like they were saying forget any funny business on this trip folks, we are here, alert and wont allow it. Boy was I glad I didnt bring the lawn chairs. It was then that it slapped me in the face as I looked beyond the greeting posse that this is one very beautiful ship. This grand lobby area is simply stunning. Its kind of like they took the guy who designs the beautiful lobby areas for Princess and said Heres 10 million dollars, knock yourself out; make it the very nicest and make it one that will be hard to beat. This level of design would continue in hallways, public spaces, on deck, and in our cabin. Cabin 4076 an in the hull balcony cabin is well equipped and reminds me, again, of a Princess cabin. The balcony will prove to be great when we are at sea, providing some shelter from the cold, crisp ocean breeze as the ship makes its way 3723 miles to England. Unpacking was a breeze due to our Victorinox Luggage packing sleeves. Weve done packing and unpacking about ever way there is to do it but this was by far the easiest of all. In the past weve had up to 14 pieces of luggage when the whole family (4 people) have sailed. We had more stuff than wed need on an African Safari for a 7 night cruise. The Victorinox line of Swiss Army luggage is soft-sided and very well put together. The highlight, though, are the packing sleeves that we put our folded clothing into. In the past weve used huge Ziploc bags with good results. This is better. In one extra large sleeve I packed a suit, a tux, 2 pairs of pants, and 8 shirts. The whole thing took up space about the size of 4 Sunday newspapers. Youd think that packing so much into such a small space would render wrinkled clothing but it didnt. Each article of clothing came out as though it had not been packed at all. Lisa packed about twice as many clothes in two of the sleeves that fit nicely into the luggage. One of the reasons we wanted this particular brand and size is so it will fit through the x-ray scanner and can be brought on the ship by us rather than being given to a porter at the pier. This size is just right and works perfectly for that, holding as much as we might have taken using several more pieces. The hanging clothes bag we used before is gone. The HUGE steamer trunk size piece of luggage that was always over weight for the airlines is gone. Check out www.ebags.com for more information. Wed just about finished packing when we had our safety drill. Nothing spectacular about it except that it was the Captains voice guiding us through it. I am used to the Cruise Director being in charge of that and really didnt think much about it until the Captain began talking. Two things happened. First, the crowd was absolutely silent and paid total attention to the instruction. That might have been because Cunardians are just naturally more respectful of authority, take direction well and need silence to hear. But it might also be that the usually comical Cruise e Director doesnt get taken seriously whereas the Captain, especially on a voyage of this nature, does. Ok, who do you want to tell you how to survive a sinking ship? Gilligan or Captain Kirk? In any event, it was held inside and done well. Not as easy as, say, Princess, but way easier than the lines that have us stuck out on deck all antsy to get back to the fun stuff. Finally at 5:00 we set sail and were invited on deck to watch the last of land wed see for 6 days. Leaving Brooklyn, going past the Statue of Liberty, is an experience all unto itself. Wed never seen the lady before and its one of those moments that will burn itself into our memory to last forever. Some things are like that and you just know this is one of them. Lisas ancestors came into the United States this way from Finland a long time ago so it was of extra special meaning to her. Im pretty sure my ancestors snuck in on a pirate ship so not so much meaning to me but awesome anyway. We enjoyed sailaway for a while on deck with a glass of champagne ($20 -- yikes!) then returned to our cabin to get ready for our early seating (6:00) dinner in the Britannia (steerage) Dining Room. Wed not been there yet but I was prepared for long picnic tables with a serving staff made up of all the bad crew members. I imagined the crew working this room would be either new ones whod not done it before or those who had fallen from grace and were no longer allowed to serve the Uppers. What I found (you guessed it) was quite different. This was to be our first real contact with what they call White Star service. This is a good thing. This is not White Star as in Lets ram the boat into an iceberg but more like Were really good at this, relax and enjoy the show. And we did. Bring it on. Were ready. Weve been waiting for this! Delight me! Make me go OOOH and AHHH Of all the food service on board, the dining room would take a quick lead in our ranking. I just knew it. Then reality sunk in: We ARE in steerage and these ARE the reject waiters. Where to begin? Lets start with attitude. These are not happy people. Now before someone goes off on some mental tangent thinking Oh those poor souls, working months at a time at sea, blah blah blah. Forget it. They signed up for this and are supposed to be nice. Thats it, end of discussion. At first I tried to convince myself once again that it was because this was the first night of the cruise and that they were just getting in the swing of it all. I have tended to lie to myself a lot like that in the past. As I age it becomes more and more obvious that Im not going to be able to make a silk purse out of a sows ear. Once a sow, always a sow. The inherent fault with that thinking is that WE are the new ones in this situation; THEY have been doing this every single day for years. I knew we were in big trouble when the Maitre D stopped by to advise us how important it is for us to tell them when something is not right. On the world famous Cunard Queen Mary 2 featuring White Star service? Could this actually happen? Does it happen so much that they have to give us this warning? I know from a previous career in the restaurant business that often when there is a problem that people wont say anything, theyll just not come back or go back to their cabins to write a scathing review of their experience to post on an Internet web site. The dont come back option is not so good considering that the closest alternatives are still 2000 miles away. Regardless, we enjoyed our tablemates and just looked past the fact that: · We had asked for a table for two and got one for six and NO they could not move us. This turned out to be for the best. Again; wonderful tablemates. · The service was just ok · The food was just ok · Getting another piece of yesterdays bread was a chore · The timing was awful · Service was rushed &or would that be Bums Rushed? If I was to give points for service, food quality, ambiance and overall dining experience the score would be Bobby Flays Mesa Grill 4, Cunard 1 The point scored by Cunard is in the decoration of the Britannia Dining Room. Its very pretty and functional too. Not too crowded and very few bad tables. I am pretty sure the Uppers do not know how nice our dining room is. I infiltrated the Uppers Grille area late at night to see for myself what all the hub bub was about. Sure they had a full orchestra playing for them as opposed to a string trio for us as we entered the dining room then they ran off. But otherwise it looked like any other dining room. Pretty and functional. See thats the thing; this ship is gorgeous. Cunard has done a marvelous job of creating a vehicle that could elicit a magnificent, truly once-in-a-lifetime cruising experience. But once again, its the crew that makes the difference. When we think back to the highlights of our cruise history, crewmembers are big factor. All that said and out of the way, there are some great things going on here. I had a nice chat with the Captain who is a very nice man. He is genuinely concerned with our safety and that we have a pleasant experience while aboard his ship. It was then that it dawned on me that this really IS a completely different experience than, say, a sailing in the Caribbean. Besides the obvious that there are no ports of call, there are a number of other topics well discuss in the coming days unique to this voyage. I think it must have taken the first three days to realize that comparing this cruise to any others weve experienced was a mistake. A transatlantic voyage is just that; a voyage. Not a sailing. Not a cruise. A voyage. Six days at sea is not at all like the days at sea thrown in here and there on a traditional cruise. On a cruise, a large part of the experience is focused outside the ship. On port days there are activities to do off the ship which you come back to at night as your home away from home. On this voyage the ship is transportation from New York to England to be sure but much more than that. Inside the ship are thousands of people any which one would not survive long in the icy ocean water. When asked the question What do you do onboard? of any other ship the answer is easy. Most ships have so much to do that even if we tried, they could not all be done. This ship too has a number of activities and features but the Queen Mary 2 has one thing that no other ship weve been on has. Time On this ship there is time to get to know new friends. Time to read like youve never read before. Time to do nothing like youve never done before. In the process it is quite possible to take account of your life in an in-depth, honest manner like youve never done before&and may very well never do again. On this ship, at your disposal, are all the tools needed to have a magnificently renewing life experience. Its not the food, the service, your cabin or how fast the laundry is returned that matters. The tools provided, time and people, make or break this experience. Cunardians are a well-traveled bunch. I dont mean theyve sailed a lot, although many have. Theyve traveled the sea of life and have an abundant amount of knowledge to share. If only we listen. I love to cruise and have never had a bad cruise. There have also been little things that went wrong on every one of them. The trick has always been to not let those little things bother me. If you read these things I write very much you know that I am not a moaner. There ARE moaners on any cruise. These people complain about the smallest things just for the sake of complaining. I think they enjoy it. Ive said in other writings that If I am going to take the time, money, and effort to go on a cruise I want it to be the very best it can be. This one is no exception. Each cruise and each cruise line is different, though, so to compare one to another is often difficult if not impossible. Still, there are common elements of the cruise experience that are universal among lines and ships. Some of them include: · Embarkation- the exact procedure varies little from line to line- to begin the cruise we have to get on the ship · Cabins- décor and amenities may vary slightly but often if plopped into a cabin blindfolded it would be difficult to know which line you are on · Buffets- Again, little differences between lines dont add up to a big advantage for one over another · Bar Service- expect there to be an over-priced drink special of the day on anything that floats · A Pursers Desk- like the front desk in a hotel, this serves the same purpose. · Similar management structure- The Hotel Manager, Food and Beverage Manager, etc are all present on each cruise. Some are more visible than others. · The Captain- Theyve all got one and Ive never met one I didnt like nor who wasnt anything less than a perfect gentleman. · The Crew- They always appear to be a hard working bunch, some more and some less obviously trying hard to make a good cruise experience for us. · Disembarkation- we have to get off the ship at some point. This used to be an area of great differences between lines, not so much anymore. On the other hand, there are areas in which the different cruise lines vary greatly. Some of them are: · Childrens programs- ask any parent of a kid between 2 and 12 who have sailed multiple lines; theyll have a favorite. For a long time, Carnival ruled this area, now the others seem to be catching up. In fact, many would put Royal Caribbeans Adventure Ocean solidly in the lead. · Finally, there is dining- not the buffets, but the dining room. Princess has Anytime Dining, a program that has allowed for those who would like either Traditional or an alternative program allowing them to eat when and with whoever they want. Kinda. They have some work to matching their dining experience to what their guests want. On high occasion, the Traditional Dining choice fills up first, leaving others who wanted it on a waiting list. A better word for the waiting list might be the Disappointed List and, to me, thats an awful way to start out a cruise experience. Norwegian Cruise Line has Freestyle dining which truly does allow all guests to eat when and where they want to. In almost all cases, special requests or substitutions on the menu, when possible, are allowed. Most lines go out of their way to please the guests. Carnival and the others, including Cunard all seem to be about the same, offering the traditional dining experience. Some are better at it than others. They all have their good and bad days, much like a land-based restaurant. Consistency would seem to be a big factor to consider when, appropriately, using dining as a determining factor on which to choose. While I know really well that dining, much like entertainment, is very subject to each persons preferences, there are some that produce a very consistent product and some that dont. Cunard, on this sailing, has not. That has been surprising to me. Very surprising. In preparation for this, as with any cruise, I did my homework. I read all the brochures, scoured the Internet information sources, and sought out the opinions of others. The last thing that I expected was mediocre service and anything less than spectacular food presentations. I think it is universally true that the real service begins when there is a problem. The true test of any service organization is how they respond to a concern by one of their customers. As noted, they all have good and bad days. The great operators have fewer bad days and more good days. The Super-great ones have very few of either and produce a consistent, high-quality product (whatever that many be) on a day-to-day basis. They know exactly who they are, what they want to do and do it every single day. In all fairness, then, Ill be speaking to the Hotel Manager and Food and Beverage manager today to relate some issues I have with my cruise experience. So many people dont say anything, dont give them a chance to make it right, and just dont come back. Have I had a lousy cruise? No, theres still no such thing as a bad cruise in my book. Is my cruise experience less than my expectations? Absolutely. Theyve without a doubt dropped the ball several times. I encourage everyone to complain when there is a problem but be fair about it. Write down on paper what you want to complain about. Often it doesnt seem like such a big deal when you see it in writing. In my case, on this cruise, The Dining Room: · Slow, poorly timed service- Not all guests at the same table served at the same time- awkward. · No substitutions or special requests- Id expect this at a fast-food joint but not on a full-service top of the line cruise ship. The Cabin Steward · Nothing specific, just not as good as others on other lines- Ok, see? That one doesnt have much substance when put down on paper. Ill let that one go. Ok lets talk about the good stuff · I talked to the Food and Beverage Manager about some concerns I had about service in the dining room. That was all it took and everything was perfect. · We received a nice card from the Captain and Cruise Director congratulating us on our anniversary · Our waiter presented us with a folder containing all the menus from the entire cruise · Illuminations- the planetarium is really cool. There is a series of three shows; dont miss a one of them · The QM2 club sandwich is the star of the room service menu and should be considered a signature item · The casino is not too big but very giving · Theres a walking tour of the ship that is very educational and fun · The Cunard beach towels are to die for, buy some. · Skip buying logo wear the first night, it all goes on sale later in the week · Room service is really prompt. I think they make the stuff in the next cabin over from ours · The library is an attraction thats not to be missed. Cruise lines throw around that best one at sea phrase a lot. This one leaves all the others put together distant losers. · The QM2 offers a selection of daily newspapers, printed on the ship, and delivered to your cabin if youve really got to have one. I think it kind of defeats the purpose of being surrounded by nothing but ocean for 6 days&but thats just me · Fast, readily available elevators. Hardly ever a wait. · The Canyon Ranch beauty product samples are wonderful, leave your shampoo and conditioner at home Some tips · Dont be fooled, every night is formal night. Their idea of informal: suit and tie. Other lines idea of informal: Country Club Casual. My idea of informal: Jeans and a t-shirt. · Ladies: bring a formal gown for each night, youll be sorry if you dont. · Eastbound we set our clocks back an hour each night. No tips here just beware: that can sneak up on you. · Computer users; buy a package. .50 per minute adds up fast. Laptop users: dont, the ships computer terminals are plentiful and way faster than their wireless connection. · Relax and enjoy the ride; thats what its all about · Cell phone users: forget it, this ship is not equipped with a tricky and costly cell phone tower. Its a good thing. · Bring warm clothing! If you have any hope of going on deck youll need it&at least on a May sailing. I dont know if it warms up at sea in July but it sure felt like winter to me on this one. Surely a transatlantic voyage is not for everybody. I didnt think it was for me for a while but dont get me wrong; this has been a wonderful experience. Yes, there were a few rough spots along the way but I can safely say that Id surely do this again. Id have serious reservations about bringing kids along, although we did see some on this sailing. The whole nature of this says mature adult¬ old but mature. As I mentioned earlier, take the time to get to know other people. From the people you ride in the elevator with to your tablemates, everyone has a story and most of them are interesting. We chose to do disembarkation with Cunard transfers to our hotel in London at Victoria Station. When planning, this sounded like a great option as our hotel, the Victoria Thistle, was located right in Victoria Station. Victoria Station is located right on the route of a sightseeing tour we wanted to take so that was good too. The only problem was that the Cunard transfers were to Victoria BUS station, not Victoria TRAIN station, two separate facilities a couple blocks apart. No big deal for those who know their way around. Real big deal for first-time visitors scared by current warnings about wallet/purse snatchers on the streets of London and old legends like Jack the Ripper stuck in there too. An hour or so after the BUS dropped us off in the BUS station we finally made it to our hotel which was quite nice&.in an old London/England kind of way. Before I go too far I need to relate my enduring impression of England and London: GOD BLESS AMERICA, MY HOME SWEET HOME I thought the notion of an English Breakfast complete with Fried Tomatoes and right-out-of-the-can Baked Beans was odd on the ship, but here it was on every street corner and on every menu as quite the deal. I wondered if the same dude who started the whole Emperors New Clothes thing started this too. To be fair, one day is surely not a good trial of anyplace, especially a foreign country that uses different money, sayings, has a different government, etc. That said; GOD BLESS AMERICA, MY HOME SWEET HOME Our flight on Aer Lingus took us from London to Dublin first then on to New York. I thought it was funny that they sold everything from soft drinks to perfume on board the plane. Nothing was free. They must not have had any canned baked beans because those probably would have been free. Still Aer Lingus was quite another experience to add to our list. Those people talked funny too but Ireland/Irish/Shamrocks etc I knew about so I let it slide. Still I thought; GOD BLESS AMERICA, MY HOME SWEET HOME Finally when we got back to Orlando very late it was good to be home. This was a wonderful trip, one we will never forget and never want to do again&..sorta. Id do it again but would do WAY more research on England, getting there and getting back. I guess Id become so accustomed to booking flawless travel plans for frequently visited Caribbean destinations that I just didnt think twice about some other place across a really big ocean. Still, it was fun. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
WHY I BOOKED THIS CRUISE? As I had a voucher from my previous QM2 cruise I wanted to use it up and a longer cruise would be too expensive for a single person. I booked this cruise through an English agency who are very good. TRAVEL ... Read More
WHY I BOOKED THIS CRUISE? As I had a voucher from my previous QM2 cruise I wanted to use it up and a longer cruise would be too expensive for a single person. I booked this cruise through an English agency who are very good. TRAVEL TO THE PORT. I got the train from my local station which the ticket office is not normally open, it was this time but had no time. So when I arrived at Richmond I had to buy a ticket. It took ages fot him to work out my fare and I missed 2 trains! When I got to Waterloo my train was already pulling out, so I got something to drink and got the next one. These new trains are ok but there is nowhere to put your luggage. So I had to leave it by the door. When I arrived at Southampton Central there was no shuttle bus to be seen so I got a taxi to the dock. On my way I saw a shuttle bus in the city. On arrival at the dock my case was taken away and put straight on the ship. Then I found the queue virtually nonexistent except for a very few people. Every time I come there I usually have to wait a couple of hours and the computers always seem to go down. after x ray, My picture was taken and I handed my cruise card to put into their machine. No one to show me to my cabin! I found my way to deck 6. Found 6170. ACCOMMODATION. I found a lovely large room with a shower and sink, a mini bar with only soft drinks. A safe that was locked from the previous guest. I told the steward but by evening the safe still could not be used. So I called reception once again and it was opened. A 2 seat sofa with wooden arm rests, a small table. 2 wardrobes. a large tv, and an enclosed balcony with 2 sun loungers, a small table and an open hole. LIFEBOAT DRILL. This was very quick in the King's Court buffet, sitting down which was nice. No name checking off and as soon as we put the belts on we could go. SAILAWAY. It was supposed to be 1800hrs, but it was later than this so I missed this as my dinner was 1800hrs. FOOD. Dinner was in the Britannia restaurant, the food was good. Breakfast I had in my cabin which was good enough, I treated myself to the TODD ENGLISH on the last night and it was well worth the extra $30. I had clam chowder, octopus and squid, swordfish steak and creme brulee. A great feast. ENTERTAINMENT. This was very good, singers and dancers were this best. The singer was not up to much as most left at this time. I missed the last night with the singers and dances as it was packed. SHORE EXCURSIONS. I planned to book the Berlin trip at $284 for 13 hours but they were cancelled as no one was interested. A few other trips to Hamburg and surrounding places were available. There was a shuttle bus into town which was run free as it was quite a way into town. But the 1st was full so I walked in the harbour area which was 15mins walk. You could get a train from here 10mins into town. It was very busy today as well as being QM2 DAY everybody was coming there to see the ship and there was a motorcycle rally. I booked a harbour cruise on the "MISSISSIPPI QUEEN" around the dock area and passing the QM2 this took 75mins. It cost 20 euros. SHOPS. A few good shops on the ship, Mayfair shops and Harrod's as well as jewelry shops. A good selection of things here, I bit less than last time as I got badges, cufflinks, tie pins before none of these were on sale. ACTIVITIES. Bingo, dance classes, line dancing, bridge playing. Apart from these not a lot else. NEGATIVE POINTS. Apart from the safe that was locked, my cabin was not made up very quickly after 11am mostly. Had to put make up room sometimes. then the day I was out put the do not disturb sign up and when I got back at 6pm the room still was not done. Shore excursion cancelled, no comment form until I asked for one and then it was in French! The interactive tv was great, you can read and send email, my friend said it was free to receive but it's $1.50 to send or receive. You can get restaurant menus when it's working, as it only worked on the 1st day. Read your bill as it goes along, tipping is added to the bill at $11.00 per person per day. The captain's cocktail party was a waste of time. Had to queue up for a photo of the captain who was not even there. Then it was in the Queen's room where there was not enough seating. Then when the staff captain spoke it was just to tell us the captain was busy up on the bridge and couldn't come. Then that was it!!! There was no extra cocktail party for the World Club members which seems strange. DISEMBARKATION. I woke at 5am to see us arrive in Southampton, 7am paid my bill then breakfast. Cabins had to be vacated at 0830hrs. then we were told to meet at different places. But mine was in the Royal Court Theatre on deck 2. When I got there they said this was for tours and I needed to go to deck 3, so up I went. Most of the people were leaving here as there were no audible accouchements heard in here. So most waited up on deck. My departure was shown at 0945 but in fact it was 0845 which was quite good. Straight off the ship pick up luggage and off into a taxi and a train home. OVERALL IMPRESSION. The ship is lovely even without the minor problems, the highlight was all the people to meet us and see us off. but as its so expensive for single people I won't be going on Cunard again!! P.S. Forgot about the minor hiccup. There was soot coming from somewhere and announcements were made by the captain and no alarm but it was soon sorted out. I could smell smoke though. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
My husband and I just returned from our eighth cruise. We were on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Independence Day sailing from July 3  8, 2006. It came and went from New York City, and included the ports of: Boston, Massachusetts (on July 4); Bar ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our eighth cruise. We were on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Independence Day sailing from July 3  8, 2006. It came and went from New York City, and included the ports of: Boston, Massachusetts (on July 4); Bar Harbor, Maine; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. We have previously sailed on Carnival, NCL and Holland. This was our first on Cunard, and first out of New York City. We arrived two days early in New York, and spent the weekend at the Marriott Marquis near Times Square. There was quite a lot going on that weekend! We took in a few of the tourist activities and also were able to visit the site where the World Trade Center had been. My husband was so impressed with his first cab ride in New York in a while, that we booked a car service to get us to and from the pier. There was some kind of an event going on near the Marriott Marquis the day we arrived, and the taxi driver wanted to drop us off, and our four bags, about two blocks from the hotel. As if we wanted to fight our way through the crowds with four suitcases in tow. We insisted that the driver continue to the hotel itself. He wasnt too happy about that, but oh well. We booked a car service from the Marriott and it was $86 from the hotel to the pier and then another $86 from the pier to LaGuardia at the end of the cruise. Not a bad deal at all, considering Cunard charges more than that to ride in a bus. I have read just about every review for the QM2 I came across. People seemed to be either thrilled or mildly disappointed with their cruise. I was trying not to expect a lot, and my husband wasnt expecting anything at all. We had a nice time aboard this ship, but not the wonderful time we have on most cruises. I dont think there is any such thing as a bad cruise, so it was still good. But I like other lines better. Embarkation wasnt too bad. We arrived right at the time stated on our boarding pass and it took about 45 minutes. Our travel agent had pre-registered us with all our passport information and all that, so things went that much more quickly for us. The facility in Brooklyn was nicely air conditioned, and there wasnt any danger of it getting hot and miserable in there. The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous. It is very pretty and everywhere I went I had the same thought, This is nice! From the wall panels to the artwork to the flowers to the cabins themselves, everything is very elegant and pleasing to the eye. We had an interior cabin with two upper berths which were not used. I was a little concerned that they would be in the way, but they tuck neatly into the ceiling. Unless you knew to look for extra berths, you probably wouldnt have known they were there. The room had plenty of drawer and closet space. We rarely saw our cabin steward, but knew he was there by the clean state of our room all the time. He introduced himself and provided my husband with an ashtray and things like that. He did a great job staying on top of things. The sail away party from New York was fun! The NYPD had their helicopters escorting the ship a ways. They circled the ship, got fairly close and hovered, and waved to the passengers and all that. It was pretty fun and made for some great pictures. I have one shot of a NYPD helicopter hovering close to the ship with the Manhattan skyline in the background. We had a table for two in the first seating of the Britannia Dining Room. The food was very fancy, but not necessarily all that good. We arent terribly picky eaters, but had some trouble finding even one entrEe or appetizer/salad that sounded good. Or at least didnt sound awful. Normally on a cruise I have to decide between a couple of appetizers that sound good, can figure out which salad I want, and then have to decide on an entrEe. Not here. I was lucky to find one appetizer or salad I wanted and one entrEe that would work. My husband ordered the stand by grilled chicken breast twice. Anyway, I included one nights menu below. The rest are different but still just as fancy-schmancy. APPETIZERS AND SOUPS Chicken Liver Parfait, Pear Compote & Sauterne Jelly Smoked Salmon Terrine with Keta Caviar & Celery Hearts Crispy Calamari Rings on Greens, Lemon Dip Cream of Mixed Mushrooms, Parmesan Croutons Chicken Consomme with Herbed Quenelles SALADS Oak Leaf & Boston Salad, Sherry Vinaigrette Soba Noodle Salad, Sesame Soy Dressing ENTREES Spaghetti alla Marinara with Tomato Sauce, Garlic Onions and Anchovies Pan Seared Grouper, Mango Avocado & Sweet Potatoes Roast Pork Loin, Wild Mushrooms Ragout, Truffle Mash and Morel Sauce Roasted Strip Loin, Glazed Root Vegetables & Yorkshire Pudding Vegetable & Bean Chili Taco Shells, Steamed Rice (I had the smoked salmon appetizer followed by the spaghetti without the anchovies.) The service was fine, although I think our assistant waiter ducked out a lot. This left the server to have to cover water, rolls, removing plates and all that. I felt kind of bad for the server. We could see where other serving teams were working together better. There was one thing about dinners that annoyed me. When we received our cruise documents, they mentioned two formal nights, one informal night, and two casual nights. The two formal nights were to be a red, white and blue ball and a black and white ball. So I brought clothes as appropriate. When we got on board, this had been changed to one formal night (black and white ball), one informal night (with red, white and blue ball to follow) and three casual nights. I wound up wearing a formal on informal night and something semi-formal on a casual night. Not a huge deal, but why send cruise documents mentioning two formal nights and then modify it to one after we cant change what weve packed? But it wasnt a huge deal. And I saw a lot of other ladies in red or blue formal wear that night as well. I guess they had the same information I did. We did the buffet for breakfast each day. It offered plenty of hot selections, bread/pastry selections and fruit. We ate at the Golden Lion for lunch each day, as my husband loves Shepherds Pie, known as Cottage Pie there. I had Fish and Chips a couple of times. It was delicious and the fish was very mild. We ordered room service two or three times. It is a very limited menu, but does include a Club Sandwich, which worked for us. Room service was pretty quick, too. The drinks on the QM2 didnt seem to be much more expensive than on any other line. One of the bartenders in the Golden Lion introduced me to a Southern Peach which has become my new favorite. The casino had all the standard games and didnt seem to be too crowded. Most tables were a $5 minimum, which is manageable. We dropped some money there, but gambling is entertainment for us, so we absorb some losses in the interest of keeping entertained. It was nice to be able to sit at a table or choose a slot machine whenever we wanted. We went to one show, some kind of international dances through out the decades. I thought it was good, but my husband was kind of bored with it. It was just an hour long so he was able to live with it. We also attended a planetarium show, which was interesting. The ports we visited had a lot to do with us selecting this cruise. We (I) had been wanting to sail on the Queen Mary since she was built, and this week worked out well with both of our vacation schedules and included ports we wanted to visit. Boston, Massachusetts was the place to be on Independence Day! We stayed aboard the ship until after noon. That day the USS Constitution sailed into the harbor on her turnaround cruise. At exactly noon her cannon was fired while underway. That was a treat! We had to be back on board before the fireworks started in Boston. We didnt have a full view, as there were tall buildings between there and the ship. We also werent able to hear the music that was synchronized with the fireworks, as we were too far away. But the ship had its own sail away party and it was fun being top side for that. The next day was Bar Harbor, Maine. It was foggy most of the day, and we werent able to see the cliffs we had heard so much about. There are about three streets of tourist shops in Bar Harbor and some beautiful scenery. We are quite relieved that we did not waste an entire weeks vacation visiting Bar Harbor. I did have lobster lunch, which was delicious. Day four was Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was pretty and had nice scenery and all that as well. You could see where tides went in and out, how the water would be deep at times, and then nothing but sand and rock would be left. That was interesting. The last day was a day at sea. It was relaxing and nice and all that. We are used to being able to spend some time in the sun on a cruise ship. But it didnt happen in that latitude. Most of the time, it was cool and windy outside. We didnt even stay out long in our clothes, let alone bathing suits. People did lie in lounge chairs, but most were fully clothed with towels and/or blankets wrapped around them. One brave man did lie out in his bathing suit. It didnt look like he was getting much of a tan. We are glad we learned how cold it can be on a cruise that far north, even in July. We were thinking about doing a Scandinavian Cruise, but are seriously reconsidering. We also now know that if we do a crossing of the Atlantic, it will be from Portugal to Fort Lauderdale or something like that, and not from London to New York. The other passengers were mostly from the United States, as is predictable on cruises that both embark and disembark from New York City. I found the other passengers to be friendly and well mannered enough. There were some snobbish people, but every cruise seems to have at least a few of those. Overall, I am glad we went on this cruise. We are now able to say weve been on the Queen Mary, and we went to some ports we wanted to visit. But it was missing some of the things we really enjoy about cruising, such as lying by the pool listening to Jimmy Buffett music and downing frozen drinks. It was more like sitting around a very swanky hotel as opposed to being at a resort. Its very pretty and nice to see, but not enough action for us. This cruise reminded me of my first trip to Europe. Many years ago, I saved, planned, and really anticipated my first trip to Europe and all the great things I was going to see and do the whole time, like the brochures said. Then I got there and it was okay, and there were things that I liked and all that. But I really didnt have the great time I thought I was going to have. When I got home, I wasnt about to admit to myself or anyone else that I didnt have a great time on that vacation. So I went on pretending that I had an absolutely amazing time. And I did have some good memories and did do some interesting things. It just wasnt what it was hyped to be in the brochures. Anyway, I see I have gone on for four pages about a five day cruise. Overall, it was okay, and Im glad we went. We now know what the Queen Mary 2 and Cunard are all about. And we dont have to do another one, our curiosity has been satisfied. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
The Queen Mary II is a magnificent ocean liner. Her crew takes great pride in maintaining and caring for her. Her beauty and opulence brings you back in time and allows you to imagine what is was like to sail on the great oceanliners of so ... Read More
The Queen Mary II is a magnificent ocean liner. Her crew takes great pride in maintaining and caring for her. Her beauty and opulence brings you back in time and allows you to imagine what is was like to sail on the great oceanliners of so long ago. Her displays of paintings and posters of the great oceanliners of decades ago truly was delightful to see. The wall of celebrity photos, located near the Planetarium, enjoying great moments on the original Queen Mary, really captured the attention of the guests and reminded us all how lucky we were to be a part of a transatlantic crossing. In addition, the inlays of mosaic tiles displayed near the buffet areas added a lovely touch. I was travelling with two other people. Our suite was large and had a walk-in closet with lots of closet and storage space throughout. We had a sitting area, a lighted china cabinet well stocked with water, wine, and champagne glasses. Our balcony was also large with two full-sized wooden lounge chairs and a snack table. The bathroom had a tub and shower and again with lots of storage space. In addition, toiletries from the Canyon Range Spa and heavier terry robes were provided. The weather was really great for a transatlantic crossing. We had some clouds and sun, moderate temperatures, no rain, but we did have two days of fog. It seemed we enjoyed walking the decks through the fog and hearing the subtle sound of the ship's fog horns. No seasick pills needed -- the ocean was quite calm. The negatives. The on-board shops were not well stocked. Some of the crew members advised me that the crossings which commence in Southampton offer better stock on those voyages. If you are a smoker, bring your own cigarettes. Cunard does not have a good selection of American cigarettes. Cartons purchased on board are delivered at the end of the voyage and you if want cigarettes you must purchase them at the bar. Of note: Bar service adds on a gratuity to cigarette purchases. Our stateroom category included dining at the Princess Grill Restaurant. The darkness of the Princess Grill and lack of atmosphere including music almost made you feel like you were dining in a funeral home. The menu lacked variety and the waiters had no personality. Additionally, the quality and taste of the food ranged from awful to excellent so there was a lot of inconsistency. Unlike Celebrity cruises which I feel has the best quality of food, Cunard does not make their own butters, jams, or ice creams. In fact, the store brand ice cream at your local supermarket was better than what was offered on Cunard. The selection of chilled fruit soups was just that lacking and what was offered was awful. In fact, I was actually beginning to feel depressed eating in the Princess Grill and opted to dine a few nights in the Britannia Restaurant which offered better food, service with a smile, and a string quartet playing all the classic tunes. The waiters do not offer to carry trays to the tables for passengers at the buffets. Indeed, this really needs to be changed because I noticed many elderly passengers struggling with their trays. Cunard is so particular about their guests abiding to their upscale dress code that I was surprised to see people attending the proper English teas so shabbily dressed????? In addition, on casual nights, Cunard needs to actually relax their dress code from "Elegant Casual" to "nice casual" a bit and get more with the times. The entertainment offered was good to excellent. The Planetarium was superb, the narration was excellent, and the technology was state of the art. During our debarkation, a fellow passenger who was travelling alone, at the age of 91, discovered she left her hearing aides in her stateroom. When she picked up a housephone and requested that her hearing aides be brought to her, she was told, "go back to your stateroom and collect them yourself." After my travel companions went to this woman's stateroom to try and locate her hearing aides, they were not there and they were given misinformation as to the whereabouts of the hearing aides. After several phone calls by myself and other passengers, the situation was resolved. This caused an elderly passenger undue stress in addition to the fact that she had to make an airline connection. The above scenario depicts much needed improvement in Cunard's attention to detail. I loved the decor of the ship and enjoyed being a part of a transatlantic crossing. However, Cunard needs a lot of improvement in the quality, selection, and taste of the food served. Celebrity and the Vision class ships of Royal Caribbean far exceed Cunard in service and in the culinary arts. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
Cunard Cruise Line This was our second Cunard Cruise, our first with this line in 13 years, we have done 18 cruise with Princess, 8 cruises with HAL and 12 cruises with Celebrity. We booked a B5 balcony on a promotion for less than $1500 ... Read More
Cunard Cruise Line This was our second Cunard Cruise, our first with this line in 13 years, we have done 18 cruise with Princess, 8 cruises with HAL and 12 cruises with Celebrity. We booked a B5 balcony on a promotion for less than $1500 each. I booked my own air with a direct flight with Continental Airlines. Picked up bags at Laguardia got my bags and was in a cab on the way to the terminal within 20 minutes. Took 30 minutes in a $34 cab ride to terminal due to construction, accident and heavy NY traffic. Gave porter bag at pier. Embarkation: Waited in line for an hour before they started taking people. Ship had off loaded in NJ prior to coming to Red Hook. We were on the ship with in 20 minutes after the line started to move. Cabins: The cabin 8102 (cat. B5) was attractively decorated and good sized for the price. The balcony was nice with two plastic lounge chairs and a table. The shower is similar to what we get on Celebrity with a hose and wand arrangement. Cabin service was efficient and unobtrusive. My wife enjoyed the bath robes. The bed was comfortable and my wife liked the room. Public Areas: The public areas are nice, but the ship is confusing. Finding the Queens room and ConneXions involved going down a stair and a long hall. The ship is large and feels that way. Enjoyed the Golden Lion Pub, they have pub lunch daily and music and dancing at night. Met many passenger that I had talked with previously on the internet in a meeting on the second day in the Commodore Club. They had good shows on board and we enjoyed the entertainment. There was plenty of activities to keep you busy all day including lectures and classes of all kinds. They had Planetarium shows in ConneXions and you had to pick up the free tickets early or you were out of luck, don't miss these. They had a fine library and I read a couple books on sea day. Shops were pricey. Dining: I requested 2nd seating traditional dining when I booked and I got nice table for two in Britannia with a good waiter too. We ate all our meals here except when we had early tours. We went to open seating for breakfast and lunch in the Britannia Dining room every day when not on tour. The main dining rooms was not full due to number eating in King Court. We had pizza, cookies and burgers several times for a snack. The Britannia restaurant was nicely decorated and the food varied from excellent to good, but not up to Celebrity standards. The food in the King Court was also good. Tours: We did tours in all the ports but Sydney as we had been there before. In Corner Brook we did the Captain Cook's Trail tour and they stopped at a nice church for home made snacks and homemade gifts you could buy at the end of the trail. We had a nice time with some nice people. In Quebec we did the all day tour with lunch, went to Montgomery falls, had a good lunch at Augerge Baker Restaurant, visited St Ann's church, and we did a city walking tour on the way back. In Halifax we did the coastal drive to embarkation: Peggy's Cove. In St. John's we did the Highlights tour and saw the reversing river. High seas forced us to not go to Bar Harbor, a tender port, but we went straight to Boston instead and docked there over night. I had been to Bar Harbor before. In Boston we did the Harbor Cruise and in Newport we did the Grand Mansions tour. Tours were all fine and the wife came home with some nice memories and goodies. Disembarkation: This was slow to start, but we were off a 9:30 AM. Customs had a long line and when we got to the Taxis there were 20 in line and 2 taxis. Rather than wait an hour, I took a limo right a way and it cost me $64 to Laguardia and we were there by 11 AM. Got plane at 4 and was home by 6 PM. Overall, I was satisfied. I put a $600 per person deposit down on a future cruise to be designated later. This locks me in to discount and nice on board credit. Most of the problems centered around confusing layout of the ship. My wife has been wearing her QM2 tee shirt which is a sign that she enjoyed the trip. I recommend the ship, and hope to see some of you on her in the future. Next years cruise is 2 days shorter and skips 3 ports which is a shame because we enjoyed Corner Brook and St. Johns. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Our trip on the QM2, December 2- 9, 2006 With much anticipation we left Savannah Georgia December 1 and drove to Fort Lauderdale to stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach a great place, on the beach, rooms great. Could not wait till the ... Read More
Our trip on the QM2, December 2- 9, 2006 With much anticipation we left Savannah Georgia December 1 and drove to Fort Lauderdale to stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach a great place, on the beach, rooms great. Could not wait till the morning when we would repack our bags and head to the port. When we arrived at the port we found many ships, lots of passengers, appeared to be much confusion. We finally found our berth, the port handlers took our luggage and then we waited, we waited, we waitedseemed like for ever. Having had two heart attacks recently, standing in a line for 1 to 2 hours was not going to work for me. I finally found a bench outside and sat. No information given as to why the long line or the long wait no communication!! Finally we noticed the line had started to move and we headed to the door, with it seemed like thousands of other passengers, some quite angry and frustrated. We could not get a clear answer as to why the delay but it only took us a moment to see that none of the computers were working. One poor boat official was working on computers, no luck, would move to the other computer, again no luck. I will say he had a nice smile as he stood over the computers trying to get them to work. No one could tell us what was happening or when it would improve. Finally someone said the computers had blown in the early morning when the immigration folks told them to shut the computers down, for what reason I do not know. It appeared that with the computers blown, the replacement parts were either too few or non existent. Yes, there was someone that pushed people aside to make room for wheelchair folks, this was also a mess, maybe 3 wheelchairs at most passed through.. Passengers continued to push their way through that special line. Eventually more security personal arrived and opened additional radar spots, so that area picked up speed quickly, then they joined everyone else behind ropes, with no official communications. After two hours of standing in line and starting to feel quite ill, I had to leave the line to sit on a stool by the computers. After 2 hours+, the lines slowly started to move. Have to say, the officials and staff of the QM2 were not helpful at all. As we were leaving our sign - in area, one of the QM2 staff people called out to us that we had been up graded and gave us a card with out new room number. Feeling quite ill and had been looking forward to the room we had picked and wanted, we were told we have been upgraded to a room at the rear of the ship. Not a good way to start a trip. Originally we picked a midships room hoping for the least amount of movement as I get sea sick. The picture of us in the rear of the ship with my asking for Phenergan shots every day did not thrill me at all. We had specifically asked our trip specialist NOT to allow the ship's folks to upgrade us. As up grade is fun and unexpected ALL passengers should be asked if they wish to upgrade by the cruise line. No one asked!!! When we said no to upgrade and that we wanted our original room we were told it had already been given away. Luckily and happily it turned out to be a smooth ride, with little movement, which we were very grateful. The room was beautiful; our butler was the best-very helpful. On good weather days we ate breakfast and lunch out on our balcony. Lots of fun. Another frustration was that no one was available when we finally boarded to give us directions to our new cabin, in the middle of this huge/long hall trying to read the maps and locations to our cabin and deck. Luckily, a room steward walked by, we asked for help. She took us up to our deck and welcomed us to our cabin. Thank heavens she happened to walk by. On the positive side, we loved the ship!!! We ate our dinners in the Queen's Grill, food was outstanding, the wait staff very professional and helpful, could not have been better. The spa was a true treat, everyone there was great-treatments were a pleasure. Recommend it to everyone. Never heard one sales pitch. Sorry to say the Todd English restaurant was a disappointment. Food okay, nothing special! When you arrive for dinner you expect to have a table waiting for you, not true you are given a tour of the restaurant while others eating asking if you like this or that table. We were embarrassed. We were finally seated by the window where the cooks etc, were preparing the outside deck for an evening buffet. We loved sitting there and watching veggie artist at work. The staff in the Todd English restaurant was okay, the wine steward was quite friendly till my husband said all he wanted was a glass of wine as I can not drink and he did not want to pay for a full bottle. Her smile disappeared and was slow in getting him his glass of wine. We did not wish to eat there again on this trip. Sorry to say, while on this trip, I experienced heart issues that required a stay in the ship's Intensive Care Unit. It was hard for me to realize I was onboard a ship as the QM2 medical area is as well organized and supplied with a physician and nurses as any complete ER in the USA. All their equipment is up to US standards, the physician knew immediately what treatment I needed and I received it. Because of the excellent treatment I did not have to be air lifted off the ship and once stable I returned to my cabin and happily continued on with our trip. One recommendation the physician gave me and I will do this with every trip from now on is to bring with you on board a health history, either by letter or CD. This physician said if I had fainted or unable to communicate he would have had no idea how to treat me. He attempted to reach my home physician but was unable to get through so please everyone, diabetic, heart patient, etc. please bring your history when you travel. Even one of the health bracelets you can obtain from your pharmacy would be a great value when you travel. We did not go on any of the offered shore trips as were we happy to stay on board and so can not critique Once back in to Fort Lauderdale, getting off the ship was a piece of cake. Everything was well organized and in no time we were in our car headed to Savannah. We would recommend the QM2 to one and all, a great experience. We are now waiting for the Victoria to come on line. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
CUNARD QUEEN MARY 2 Western Caribbean Dec. 9 - 16, 2006 By Mary & Vincent Finelli In 1840, the Boston Daily News printed the following: "Since the discovery of America by Columbus, nothing has occurred of so much importance to ... Read More
CUNARD QUEEN MARY 2 Western Caribbean Dec. 9 - 16, 2006 By Mary & Vincent Finelli In 1840, the Boston Daily News printed the following: "Since the discovery of America by Columbus, nothing has occurred of so much importance to the new world as navigating the Atlantic by steamers." This is one of the more memorable quotes displayed on the new Queen Mary 2 (QM2) walls. Then, again in 2004, the London Times printed the following: "She {QM2} will be heir to all that has gone before, and will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future." Cunard has made the QM2 a floating homage to the first Queen Mary which after 33 years in service is now docked in a lagoon in Long Beach, CA. She sits as a beautiful museum to the last of the "Three Funnels." This venerable ship during WWII carried over 1.6 million troops along with her companion Queen Elizabeth. The two were painted battle ship grey, dubbed the "Grey Ghosts" and eluded the enemy with their superior speed. After WWII, the Queen Mary returned to transatlantic crossings with the slogan "Getting there wasn't just half the fun -- It was the fun." On her final voyage in 1967, Queen Mary navigated Cape Horn, South America, for the first and only time, and came to her final resting place in Long Beach. The QM2 maintains the traditions of her Cunard predecessors which includes a "style" of British elegance and the same two octaves below middle "C" horn, which can be heard for 10 miles. In our quest to sail on as many of the new ships as possible, we considered the QM2 to be another great conquest. She is a floating museum to another time and era in sailing and now in cruising. Her many attributes are worthy of a long, say perhaps "Around the World" cruise, where leisurely time on board can be spent in discovering new areas to explore, or visiting her extensive library. EMBARKATION In Ft. Lauderdale embarkation is relatively hassle free. We were scheduled for check in at 1:30pm, since the QM2 operates a staggered check-in schedule by deck number. The upper decks are first and then on down the ranks -- yes, there is still class distinction on board Cunard! This system prevents congestion or overcrowded areas on the piers. But, it can also mean barely boarding in time for Boat Drill for some. We had boarded the Carnival Legend at this same Pier a month before, thus we knew the ropes -- take the elevator up, and we had wheel chair assistance from there on to our stateroom. Now began the interesting discovery of the layout of this ship. We have two names for it, labyrinth or maze -- either will do. THE SHIP Great care has been given in the design of this ship to ensure that it is the continuation of the Cunard Line tradition; some times even to the point of convoluted access to many areas. There are four main stairways paired with elevators and labeled from forward to aft: A, B, C, D. There are thirteen Decks (one of the few ships with an "unlucky" Deck 13). There are two very impressive corridors, both in size and decoration on Decks 2 & 3, leading from the Britannia Dining Room at Stairway C and going forward to Stairway B. On the walls of one, there are faux bronze bas relief of flora, fauna and landmarks of the major continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, N. America and S. America, and the other corridor depicts Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis. These are of monumental proportions just like a homage to Earth and its inhabitants: very worthy of close examination. These were our first impression of the QM2, when we boarded at Stairway C and walked forward to the Grand Lobby and to Stairway B -- and, as the cruise went on, we still felt in awe of them, whenever we passed by. Deck 1 has the Kensington, Knightbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea Meeting Rooms and the ship's Medical Center. Deck 2 forward has Illuminations, the Planetarium/Theatre, with fantastic science and astronomy shows, lectures and movies. Access to this area is along a museum display of Cunard history and photos of distinction (i.e., launchings, famous passengers, a veritable litany of "Who's Who.") Next, is Connexions -- the on line computer area, the Royal Court Theatre and then the Video Arcade. Here, on both sides of the Theatre, there are two walkways set up with tables and chairs adjacent to windows where passengers can play many kinds of games such as the following: checkers, chess, dominoes,Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, etc., or just relax and look at the waves flowing by. Midship are the Purser and Tour offices, the Empire Casino and the Golden Lion Pub (serving lunch of Shepherd's/Cottage Pie, Fish and Chips, etc.). Aft is the Britannia Restaurant and the Picture and Art Galleries; the latter two are difficult to locate, especially using the folding Deck Plan, given to us at embarkation. Deck 3 forward are again Illuminations/Planetarium and the Royal Court Theatre, the Champagne Bar and the pricey Mayfair Shops. Toward aft is the Balcony of the Britannia Restaurant: a lovely place with simple white double columns, which give stature to the room. The back wall is a huge mural of a "Ship Celebration". Next is the Queen's Room, the largest ballroom afloat, where formal dances were held all week -- Excellent. At Captain Christopher Rynd's Cocktail party, there were royal flags hanging from the ceiling. The night of the Masquerade Ball these were changed to gold, black and red flags. Finally, hidden behind the Queen's Room, is the Disco Club G32 (Shipyard's Hull # of the QM2) where Capt. Rynd hosted the officers Cocktail Party, a very formal affair we attended. Decks 4, 5, & 6 are all staterooms, plus laundries located by B & D elevator's and the Children's Play Zone aft of 6 with the Minnows Pool. Deck 7 is all Public Areas including the outdoor Promenade with excellent chaise lounges, reminiscent of the old liners, and the following dining areas: King's Court which is divided into the Carvery (English fare), Lotus (Oriental Food), La Piazza (Italian & Mediterranean selections) and the Chef's Galley (featuring cooking demonstrations and dining by reservation). Here are located the private Queen's and Princess' Grills, reserved for guests in Suites and Junior Suites, respectively. Forward are the very pretty Winter Gardens and the Canyon River Spa Club and Gym. Deck 8 forward has the largest and most beautiful library afloat; the stacks are all made of burl wood and hold more than 8,000 volumes. Then, there is the Book Shop and the Beauty Salon. The midship is all staterooms and aft is the Todd English Supper Club ($30 per person, reservations required). Its windows overlook the Terrace Bar & Pool. Deck 9 forward has the Commodore Club with Naval memorabilia then a meeting room, "The Boardroom". Here is also Churchill's Cigar Lounge with fine cigars, lighters and liquors. Near Stairwell B is the Concierge Lounge. All the rest of this deck is staterooms, except aft is the Queen's Grill Terrace. Deck 10 is all staterooms. Deck 11 forward are the Observation Deck and the Atlantic Meeting Room. The rest is just staterooms. Deck 12 forward has staterooms; midship is the Pavilion Bar, Pool, Fairways, Shuffleboard and the Boardwalk Cafe`. Deck 13 forward has the Lookout, Sports Center, Regatta Bar, Splash Pool and the Sun Deck. This cursory review of the QM2 does not truly evoke the British ambiance, we so enjoy, that pervades this Cunard ship. All public areas are stately and prominently feature portraits of British royalty as a constant reminder of the ship's origin. There are many areas with uneven walkways and stairs which have individual elevators for the handicapped. There are sloped corridors near the Planetarium and excellent statuary near the entrance to Illuminations. It is true that there are mostly carpeted decks, which make it difficult for those with wheelchairs to navigate around the ship. Many of the other newer ships in public areas have changed to marble or tile on which wheelchairs roll much more easily. CABIN We had stateroom # 6144, Cat. B5 (269 sq. ft. including balcony) on Deck 6, since it was very difficult to book a wheelchair accessible cabin on the QM2 in this category, even when booking several months ahead. When entering on the left is a four section armoire, three for hanging clothes, and one section with shelves and personal safe, plus four drawers. Then, the to be expected seascape on the wall, a small vanity/desk with a narrow black and golden banded mirror and two wall sconces in matching black and gold. There is a TV console and a mini refrigerator. When entering, on the right is a tiny compact bathroom with a black onyx topped counter with a single sink, glass shelves and a mirror. There is a large shower stall with safety bars. Next is a queen size bed, with two night stands and the same black and gold reading lamps. The bed had an odd peaking in the middle, since there was a "bridge" joining the twin units in the center. We asked the Cabin Steward to remove it along with the weighty duvet and add a top sheet. The Caribbean is like our home in Florida, where heavy linens are not comfortable. Many of the newer ships have also gone to quilts or puffs minus a top sheet. When discussing the linens with Hotel Director David Stephenson, he said there are over 17 different ways to make a bed, just ask the steward and it will be done any way you please. The carpet is gold with maroon flecks and the drapes and bed linens beige and gold. Very nice and restful. The balcony had two recliners and a small table. However, in order to see the ocean from this "sheltered" balcony you must stand up to the rail, since the window consists of a 4x6 sq. ft. opening in the hull of the ship. The explanation for these unusual balconies is that the QM2 is an ocean liner and not a cruise ship, thus she has been built for the high seas. However, ocean view glassed balconies are Cat. B1 and B2 on Deck 8 and above; Cat. B6 also on deck 8 have balconies with partially obstructed view; Cat. B3, B4, B5 and B7, on decks 4, 5 and 6, have "sheltered" balconies. Needless to say, Vincent was disappointed in lack of ocean view from the "sheltered" balcony, but one consolation was that when we encountered rough seas, the QM2 was steady in high seas. There is one idiosyncrasy of this specific cabin which should be mentioned. There is a "cazillion" watt spot light placed just over the balcony and used to illuminate the side of the ship when the Pilot's boat arrives or departs in each port. Often this light is forgotten on and the balcony and stateroom are blindingly illuminated late into the night. Twice we called down to the purser's desk to remind them that the spot light was forgotten on well into the wee hours of the night. We always have excellent cruises, because we politely request our needs, and on this cruise Steward Greg was excellent and gracefully met all our requirements. He was both efficient and kind. FOOD AND SERVICE Cunard Line is like no other line and both food and service are typically very British. Hotel Director David Stephenson is quite secure in the Cunard Way. This line caters to a worldly group of passengers and maintains evident class distinction based on accommodations. We found the service all over the ship to be wonderful, but in the Britannia Dining Room it was excellent. We met once again Maitre D' Beniamino Acler (Italy), whom we knew from Princess Cruise Line. He is a wonderfully cordial man, whom we see as the epitome of fine Italian manners and dining service. The Restaurant Supervisor is Luigi Dolge, a very active and observant fellow. Our Waiter was Hansel and his assistant Michael. Most lines have done away with the wine steward, but Cunard maintains a Sommelier and Jaksa was quite up on wine. He enjoyed talking with Vincent about specific wines. Vincent takes his wine seriously, since he is Italian born and bred. The dining room menus were some of the most cryptic afloat, but still more than adequate. If you are a duck lover, you won't be disappointed, since it often appears on the menu. The beef was excellent; the fish was good; however, don't miss the swordfish, which was superior. Dinner in the dining room was usually very formal with so many formal evenings during the week. Alternative dining was either at the specialty restaurants or King's Court on Deck 7. King's Court is basically divided into several sections. Mandatory hand sanitizing is done. Thank goodness, especially since several ships have had Norwalk Virus outbreaks recently. The Carvery section serves typically British fare including roast beef, mushy peas, etc. There were several waiters to help with trays. La Piazza specialized in Pizza, Pasta, Lasagna and vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. The Lotus specialized in Asian cuisine, including soups and rice dishes. The best venue here is the Chef's Galley; we made reservations as soon as possible. Chef's Galley is a small studio that seats approximately 36 guests, with a showcase for the chef who prepares four courses and then after each course the "audience" is served. Chef Ion Lungu prepared each course beautifully and the waitress Karen (a polyglot from Salzburg, Austria) and her assistant Laurence served each table. First course was Tian of Smoked Duck and Cassis Foam. Second course was a Risotto al Barolo with gorgonzola, diced apple and hazelnut. The entree was roasted New Zealand Loin of Lamb with pea and butter crust. Dessert was Todd English's Chocolate Fallen Cake which remains molten chocolate in the middle (this is served with a long handled soup spoon with a huge bowl end)! Excellent Chef, service, food and show, all of which we enjoyed immensely. The Upscale Todd English Restaurant is the provenance of Todd English, owner of Oliver's of Boston, MA voted #1 restaurant in Boston and top 10 in the USA. The meal was interesting in both preparation and service. There was an array of beautifully shaped plates and unusual menu items. The Lobster and Baby Corn Chowder is first served in a huge soup plate with the dry ingredients (the lobster and vegetables) then the creamed broth (the wet ingredient) is poured on at the table from a pitcher. Very interesting! The highlight of our meal was the "Love Letters" -- delicate mascarpone cheese ravioli arranged on an oblong platter. They were excellent. Mary had grilled veal and artichokes, whilst Vincent had Lobster and Ricotta puffs -- the latter were as light as feathers. For dessert try Mr. English's famous lemon tart; it is marvelous. We also enjoyed dining in the Britannia because dinner was more evenly paced than at the other venues, where a meal was 2 to 3 hours long. Daily we went to the Golden Lion Pub, at 11:30am where there was trivia, and sometimes we stayed on for Fish & Chips or Shepherd/Cottage pies. Service was much more relaxed, and there was even live music (a jazz band and singer were tremendous). ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Ray Rouse is an old acquaintance of ours from our many cruises on Costa. He has tremendous energy and aplomb, and is savvy about music and dance from his long career in Ballroom Dance. There are the usual activities on board: Trivia, exercise, dance classes, formal dances and balls -- in one week 3 formal nights, 3 elegant casual nights and 1 informal night. If you enjoy dressing up, this is the ship for you! The shows were distinctly sharp and very British. Dancers are of the highest caliber: Petre and Roxana Samoila`, international Ballroom Dancers, are an exquisite couple who both taught and performed at the Black & White Gala and at other Balls. Ray Rouse warned us not to miss "Apassionata" with its cosmopolitan approach to music: Waltzes, Tangos (Nelson of Argentina was terrific in both dance and with Bolos). Many of the dancers were from Moscow, Russia, with deep Ballet background. The leaps and athletic aspects were breathtaking. Ray was right, and the audience agreed with a standing ovation. We felt it was the best dancing afloat. Sergei was the lightest and most spectacular dancer we've seen in person. Another show we enjoyed a lot was the performance of Petrina Johnson, a well known British singer, who not only did justice to many show tunes (including Evita) but also did some wonderful impressions of famous singers like Cher and Judy Garland. Two Thumbs up on entertainment! Illuminations had several extraordinary planetarium shows: we saw "Cosmic Collisions", "Infinity Express" and "Passport to the Universe" -- all excellent. We also saw here the great George Clooney movie "Good Night and Good Luck" and Vincent heard NASA lecturer Richard Underwood and deemed it well worth attending. The full fledged educational program is only on transatlantic crossings. PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Sail Away 4:45pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. Montego Bay, Jamaica Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Tendering to shore. Many passengers prefer Ochos Rios, since there is no tendering and all the best excursions are on that side of the island. Day 4. Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm Tendering to shore. Best attractions here are the Stingray City, sandbar snorkeling and the Seven Mile Beach. Day 5. Mahahual, Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:00pm. Great shopping for artifacts and souvenirs near the pier. Excursion to Mayan Ruins at the site of Chacchoben (1 hr. drive). Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:00pm Best port in the Western Caribbean for shopping; close to the pier is the convenient Punta Langosta Mall. Day 7. At Sea Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive 7:00am DISEMBARKATION Again, like embarkation it was done in an orderly fashion, Deck by Deck. We had wheelchair assistance from our stateroom to the Golden Lion Pub, where we waited for our Deck 6 cream color to be called. Luggage was easily located. We were off by 9:15am. There were no problems and it was painless. SUGGESTIONS This was our first Cunard cruise, a good cruise; however, it did not meet our expectation. Let us say we had better cruises on less famous ships. This ship is a classic beauty, the service is excellent, and the food and ambiance is definitely British, but somehow we had a much higher expectation that was not met. A possible explanation for our disappointment may be that we are experienced cruisers and repeaters on the most popular cruise lines (Frequent Floaters) and we know what to expect from each line and how to get the best enjoyment on each ship, whilst we had not experienced a Cunard sailing before. We feel that every cruiser should go at least once on a Cunard ship, and then decide if that is what s/he prefers. We are sure that for some people it will be the only way to cruise, but perhaps not for others. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
Embarkation at FT.Lauderdale: means long lines and long waits, it took about three hours plus to get through. Almost all of it in a line. Food average: Britannia Restaurant: So noisy at our table location all 8 of us stopped going to The ... Read More
Embarkation at FT.Lauderdale: means long lines and long waits, it took about three hours plus to get through. Almost all of it in a line. Food average: Britannia Restaurant: So noisy at our table location all 8 of us stopped going to The Britannia and instead went to the Kings Court Evening Venues. These rotating venues were better for food, atmosphere and the ability to hear your tablemates, which was impossible in the Britannia. Cabin was comfortable and at 6'6" I could actually fit in the shower! The unobstructed balcony was well worth the extra cost on such a long cruise. Having also seen the obstructed view cabins, glad we spent the money. Public rooms are spacious and quite nice. The library and the Commodore Club are both at the bow of the ship and are wonderful places to read and enjoy the ocean. The crew was great and would attend to any request with a smile! The gym was good, but needs supervision as some would hog equipment or not use the sanitary sprays supplied to wipe down the equipment. The Pub was good fun with participatory entertainment and different lunches available. The Royal Court Theater is a disaster, thank God the entertainment was so bad we quit bothering to go after awhile. Columns, handrails and partitions block many views and seats to the side are an insult. To get one of the few decent seats you need to go about one and a half hours early. Although posted signs say you cannot save seats many people do so as no ships company oversees this. Throughout the entertainment was very second rate. The ship was late arriving at almost every port which caused all the shore excursions we purchased from Cunard to be rushed with some itinerary items to be skipped. You will not feel crowded on this ship! On the other hand everything is a long walk if you are not up to it, find a smaller ship. Disembarkation in San Francisco was long and arduous, four ships were in port and after being required to vacate our cabin we had to wait in public spaces for almost four hours before getting off. I would sail on QM2 again if I got another great deal, but I would not deal with the Britannia Restaurant or the Royal Court Theater. We were fortunate to get almost a 50% discount on the published rate. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
We thought we would try the Cunard line after recent trips on the Sapphire and Diamond Princess. Although this was a section of the first World World cruise of the QM2 it probably did not live up to the hype this ship had had. It ... Read More
We thought we would try the Cunard line after recent trips on the Sapphire and Diamond Princess. Although this was a section of the first World World cruise of the QM2 it probably did not live up to the hype this ship had had. It appears that for the extra money it does not offer anything extra than its sister companies i.e. princess cruises. As they say this ship has only been built to do the Atlantic run and is not set up for cruising. Although like the QE2 it is faster and has more room than any other Ship currently sailing I don't no whether in the long term it is going to have much attraction. The build quality of this ship is not up to the standard of the last ships we went on. It is short on Bars and food areas on the decks and the retractable roof pool on deck 13 is too small.There is also not enough wind breaks on the top deck either.I don't know what they were thinking when they designed this ship. Having said all of this the food was excellent as we have found on all the cruise lines.The crew was good and helpful on most occasions. The accommodation was as good as you would expect on this ship. However, the entertainment was extremely disappointing and far from the standard expected. Despite all this we still had a great time and enjoyed the evening meal times with the dressing up. We did walk some 15ks a day around the ship to walk of the great food that we indulged in. In final we would probably not sail on the Cunard line again as there are better value for money cruise's of high standards available. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
We have just completed a cruise of the Southern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale to New York. April 2nd 2007. For the sake of all non-US nationals, Cunard should really try and avoid the USA - it is a nightmare at the moment - we took 31/2 ... Read More
We have just completed a cruise of the Southern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale to New York. April 2nd 2007. For the sake of all non-US nationals, Cunard should really try and avoid the USA - it is a nightmare at the moment - we took 31/2 hours to get off the plane at Fort Lauderdale and through passport control - no air-con or toilet facilities. We had everything but the marigolds at Gatwick and then to be treated this way by our bestest buddies is a disgrace. Cunard reps suggested that they weren't to blame and we should complain to the Dept of Homeland Security in the US. Well Cunard are certainly not to blame, but they are now no doubt aware of the hold-ups and should really bang the table on our behalf, or alternatively just avoid the USA particularly outside New York. When we arrived at New York it still took more than 5 hours to process all the 2300 passengers and it appears to be pot-luck where you are in the queue to get off, although you still get to use the on-board facilities and we even got lunch before disembarking - which was no consolation for those with short stays in New York. Well on with the actual review: The boat, ship or liner is certainly big and certainly impressive and after gaining an insight into the general layout - there is plenty to do. Each evening your steward leaves an itinerary for the following day - it's very informative and allows you to plan your time. The entertainment was exceptional in general with plenty to please all punters. There are two sittings for dinner and we did the 8.30 to avoid the kids. Why people take kids on the QM2 is beyond me - but there are plenty of them who either seemed completely bored or generally aloof. I'm sure they would prefer Disneyland and a burger rather than a violinist and fois grois. Anyhow - the entertainment was generally to our liking although the Royal Court Theatre was hardly in keeping with the general splendour of the ship. The theatre has about 1200 seats or so, with a high percentage of seats suffering an obstructed view. Whoever designed this part of the ship needs keelhauling. Even the balcony seats on the front row have a glass panel in the way with a support strut running through at eye-level. Simply genius. We were lucky enough to get good seats for the shows where the acts are also visually rewarding. But it is on a first-come first served basis, so you have been warned - the theatre is at best garbage and far from what you would expect from Cunard. Richard Dreyfuss was on our cruise and he did two shows which ended up with questions from the audience. We left during the first question as a rather large portly American spent nearly five minutes on "I'm your biggest fan" - well he did appear to particularly big - and "I've seen all your movies" right through to "what an honor it is" etc etc. As we had already left, I can't tell you any of the answers or whether or not Mr Dreyfuss had sufficient time to respond. I was hoping to ask if we were going to need a bigger boat ! Okay it wasn't his line in Jaws - but it seemed an amusing thing to ask on such an immense ship. The forthcoming Queen Victoria appears to have addressed the problem of the theatre and looks more in keeping with the splendour of that liner. The food on the QM2 is generally excellent and don't forget your camera on the next to last night when the chefs do a parade. We had three formal nights, along with a couple of elegant casual and casual nights. I wasn't looking forward to this aspect - but quite enjoyed the pomp of donning the tux and bow-tie. Lunch and breakfast can be taken in the Britannia restaurant, but generally we ate in the Kings Court area, which was self-service with a good selection on offer. At lunch there is a carvery, Oriental and Italian area along with a burger / pizzeria. However it's all pretty much the same in each zone at breakfast. I particularly liked the oriental cuisine in the Lotus area. The trips were generally okay - although the islands on our tour were slightly disappointing apart from St Kitts On Bonaire we did the snorkeling - which is exceptional and one of the highlights, but the island itself was not up to scratch and lacked a bit of soul. Grenada is still recovering from hurricane damage and the locals hardly seem in a hurry to carry out any repairs. We had to use the tenders to get ashore at Grenada, which was fun, but caused immense problems in the theatre. Depending on your tour, you have set times to meet in the theatre where you then wait to be called to your tender. This was running more than an hour late so the queues where something else - although again apparently outside Cunard's control. Why they couldn't announce to one and all to add 45mins onto the meeting time is beyond me. They seem to excel at logistics - but this was bordering on chaos. Once ashore we had a visit to a Rum Factory, which sounded appealing, although the factory had not been operational since 1995 and the tour was essentially a shop in a caravan alongside the factory ruin, complete with an awning. We then went to Great Anse beach, which actually wasn't that great. St Kitts was wonderful with a bit more money being spent on tourism. It seems to be recognized that this is where their future lies, and it is just a shame that some of the wonderful countryside will soon be spoilt by hotel complexes. The Hyatt chain has a particularly nice spot, which they will no doubt ruin. Anyway back to the ship. The cabins were roomy, clean and the steward was exceptional (Reynaldo). We were celebrating our anniversary (April 1st) and received lots of goodies - certificate, anniversary card, flowers, champers and chockies and a free photo. My wife indulged in afternoon tea, which she had been so looking forward to. She was disappointed in the scones. Not particularly good with fresh cream and red-currant processed jelly. Hardly strawberry jam and clotted cream, but then again hardly afternoon tea either. A major disappointment. I watched a football match in the Golden Lion Bar and enjoyed a pint or two of Guinness. Seems she got the short-straw. The planetarium in Illuminations is a must do and the Commodore Club and Cigar lounge are excellent - the cappuccino is a must. Illuminations also serves as a cinema and a church - so try and plan your activities as you may get all the thou-shalts and Onward Christian Soldiers when you might have been hoping for Casino Royale The library is extensive and while you are at the pointy end of the ship - you might as well have a look at the bridge. Men in uniforms looking through binoculars and looking very important but not seemingly doing much. I suppose it's a bit like flying a plane - not a lot to do between Go and Stop. The shops on board are okay although the frequent sales that they have in the hallways appear to be selling stuff that they would seemingly never sell in the shops. The sale-clothing was not particularly good quality, but some of the gift sets were okay - but they are generally for other people and not yourself ! The casino is interesting and I tried to gain a smidgeon of understanding on the game of craps, but generally just enjoyed hooting and a hollering with our American cousins who can get overly animated around the table during a game. They roll dice, cheer and hoot, then lose or win - that's about all I learned. I did however win $50 at roulette which my wife spent on some tacky photo's that you are continuously hassled to stand for. Well at least we have a photo of us in all our finery, stood in front of another photograph of the ship As regards the general feel of the ship, I had imagined sheer opulence and was somewhat let down - not by Cunard, but possibly by my own envisaged standards. The best way of summing the dEcor and lavishness of being on the QM2 is that it is rather akin to being in Marks & Spencers for a week. I leave it you to judge whether or not this is of sufficient standard. Those I shared this snippet with generally smiled and nodded in agreement. However I must point out that the Britannia restaurant is rather grand. Don't forget there are 2300 customers and over a 1000 staff on board, so be prepared to queue - like everything else on board the queues are big. I suppose this is why the Queen Mary 2 is referred to as QM2 with a heavy emphasis on the Q. The entertainment manger / director has a rather unpleasant manner in which he continually reminds everyone of the exceptional entertainment and how hard they all work. Well thanks Mr whoever you are- but I was quite capable of forming my own opinion on this. The entertainment was excellent and they all worked hard ! He is your archetypal salesman - your best mate - someone who's doing you a favor. He may however be a good organizer - but he should avoid the limelight of interviewing guest stars or introducing the acts. He is in fact so bad, he makes Charlotte Church look good. Finally my biggest bug-bear; tipping or gratuities. They take $11 a day for some reason, We booked the cruise because of the envisaged high standards and quality. This was suggested in their adverts and glossies - just read some of their grandiose waffle as they describe the experience of cruising on the QM2. A gratuity is something beyond the call of duty, which is difficult in this case because they never actually improved on exceptional service, nor did I receive enhanced excellent standards. It was quite frankly, exactly just what I had ordered when I booked the cruise - so why should I pay more? I don't want any bull about low wages of their staff - now that is their fault - why should I subsidize the salary of Cunard's staff just so the Company can make more profit for their shareholders - I just don't get it. No one tips me, but you can do so if you like this review! We have all been to a posh restaurant where we pay more for just about everything and usually we expect to - for the very reason that it is posh. We can get the same stuff for less, at a less posh restaurant. So we booked a posh cruise then had to pay more for what they offered. This is a con-trick - just put the prices up to include a tipping levy so no-one will notice and people may still choose to tip if they so wish I enjoyed my Guinness on board and couldn't tell you what it actually cost - to me it doesn't really matter because at the time I just wanted a Guinness. What I object to is paying a little extra for someone just to pour it. Put the price up rather than take stealth tips. We arrived at New York - the only way to arrive. It gives you a great sense of occasion. I just wish the skipper could have hung around a bit in the Atlantic so that the arrival was during daylight! As for New York - well that's another story for another website To finish up the review - it's not quite what I had imagined, but I have at least endless tales to share with friends - and no doubt bore them to death. It's something to tick off the list and I'm glad I've done it. It's certainly not my best holiday by any stretch - but it's also not my worst. It may though be my most disappointing, although I was not really disappointed with anything. It's not Cunard's fault - it's probably mine. Just a word of warning - beware dealing with Sunterra.com - they will just want the sale and promise you everything then pass on any of your concerns to fictitious team leaders or alleged customer services. This company sit behind a lot of cruise booking sites - so just watch out where your booking site puts you. If it is Sunterra - try a different approach. They have no interest in anything other than your transaction - and are very good at fobbing off any complaints Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2007
Overview: Few ships need as little introduction as QUEEN MARY 2. When she was introduced in 2004, she was the first new transatlantic ocean liner since QE2 in 1969, the first new Cunarder since Cunard Princess in 1976 and the largest, ... Read More
Overview: Few ships need as little introduction as QUEEN MARY 2. When she was introduced in 2004, she was the first new transatlantic ocean liner since QE2 in 1969, the first new Cunarder since Cunard Princess in 1976 and the largest, longest, widest, tallest and most expensive passenger ship ever built. Today, QM2 has been sailing for over three years. Her tonnage has been slightly exceeded by Royal Caribbean's Freedom-class ships, but she's still longer, wider, taller, and more expensive and will remain first in all those categories until that company's newest class of ship, code-named Genesis debuts in 2009 (and even that will be the same height - just slightly longer and much wider; it remains to be seen whether Genesis will end up costing more than QM2). But superlatives aside, QM2 set off a storm of controversy upon her debut. Not since QE2 35 years before had a ship been so scrutinized by the traveling public, and like her predecessor, the reception wasn't always warm. Early passengers complained about food and service, about her size (too big), her dEcor (too modern or too traditional, depending on who you asked), her layout, and just about everything else. Perhaps most stinging was the allegation that she wasn't a "real liner" - there remain some people who are convinced that any ship where 80% of the cabins have balconies can't possibly an ocean liner. I was there when QM2 arrived in New York for the first time in April 2004, her older running mate QE2 by her side. Since then I've visited her twice and known dozens of people who have sailed aboard. But it took me three years to actually take a voyage aboard QM2 - and a cruise no less. The truth is, I was in no particular hurry to sail in QM2. It was something I wanted to do, and I figured I would sometime, but while I was (and am) determined to enjoy QE2 as much as possible before she goes, QM2 seemed to have little sense of urgency. She was, after all, a ship built to last 40 years... Nevertheless, when a mailing from Cunard came offering very attractive fares a cruise leaving Ft. Lauderdale right when my parents and I would be visiting relatives in Florida, and returning back to New York a eight days later, there was no hesitation in booking the cruise. The attraction of a cruise that would eliminate the need for flying home was just too great to resist. It would also be an opportunity to introduce my mother to the joys of Cunard - my dad and I are both QE2 veterans but her Cunard experience was heretofore limited to a bon voyage party aboard QE2 in the '70s. So on 2 April 2007 we made our way down to Port Everglades from my grandparents' house near Palm Beach - a well-worn route for us - and arrived around 2:30 PM at Terminal 21 where QM2 was berthed. It should come as no surprise that she looked utterly massive next to Holland America Line's handsome VOLENDAM and slightly less so next to Celebrity's rather less handsome CONSTELLATION. Still, I'd never seen her at Port Everglades before, and seeing QM2 someplace new is always an impressive sight. (Frankly, even seeing QM2 someplace old is always an impressive sight...) We unloaded our copious luggage and then dad dropped mom and I off so he could go return the rental car. This would save us all having to drag our luggage to the port on the rental car shuttle. Unfortunately it took over an hour for him to return the car at the airport about five minutes away! (Why are rental-car companies always so inefficient?) Ominously, while mom and I waited in the lobby of the terminal - mercifully air-conditioned like everything else in hot, steamy Florida - we heard announcements from Cunard "apologizing for the delay" due to immigration problems with disembarking passengers. This was our first hint that it was not a good day for QM2... When dad finally returned we breezed through security, before which we had to sign the usual form certifying that we had not experienced any gastrointestinal symptoms in the last two days, and then ascended to a departure hall. This cavernous space - the biggest of all Port Everglades' terminals - was packed from wall to wall with departing passengers. In front of the check-in desks stood one of the longest queues I've ever seen, and before it were hundreds of chairs full of people just waiting to be admitted onto the queue itself. A pleasant but rather overwhelmed Cunard rep directed us to a few open seats and I had the feeling we were going to be here for a very long time. In reality, we only sat for about a half hour, and then stood for another half hour before checking in with a gentleman wearing a QM2 tie, a Princess Cruises lanyard and a name badge bearing the Seabourn logo! After having the requisite "please-leave-us-alone-we're-tired-and-want-to-go-aboard" photo snapped next to a life ring we strolled aboard, breathing a sign of relief that it hadn't been as bad as perhaps it looked. We've all been through more than a few embarkations and agreed that while we'd had better ones, we'd certainly had worse ones too. Later we learned that that morning, the US Immigration agents to clear the ship's 2,200 disembarking passengers from Southampton (another 450 or so stayed on) simply failed to show up. After a couple of hours they finally sent two agents. Yes, two! Given this mess I'm not sure what Cunard could have done to improve things, so I am more than willing to forgive them for the messy embarkation. All things considered I think they handled it fairly well. Soon the boat drill - delayed half an hour because of the messy embarkation - was completed (always a breeze on P&O Princess ships as it's indoors) and we were sailing away from Port Everglades and off into the Caribbean. From then on things went quite smoothly. Our itinerary gave us two delightful days at sea at around 22 knots down to our first port of call, Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. I hear Bonaire is the place to be if you dive; I don't and neither do my parents, so in the absence of a shore excursion (many were cancelled and the rest were sold out) we just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere. Less developed and less well known than other Dutch Caribbean islands like Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, Bonaire is an underappreciated gem. Here you will not find fancy shops, huge resorts, trinket-selling vendors or a lot of tourists. In fact, non-divers won't find all that much here at all. What you will find is the little town of Kralendijk with its brightly colored, immaculately kept Dutch colonial architecture and a palm-lined promenade along the harbor where you can see the sailing yachts that come here from faraway places like Denmark, Germany and even New Zealand. If it strikes your fancy you can take a water taxi to the even tinier, uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire for a day at the beach, and of course those who dive or snorkel will be in heaven here. For us it was a nice day to just stroll around the town enjoying the weather and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, I felt a bit guilty about sailing here aboard such a huge ship - to put things in perspective, the population of Bonaire is less than four times the passenger and crew capacity of QM2! Next up was the island of Grenada. Grenada is probably most remembered by many for the US invasion in 1983. In 2004 it again entered the news when Ivan, its first hurricane in 49 years, devastated the island and destroyed many of its building. Today Grenada is quickly recovering and is again welcoming tourists, but what makes it notable today is that unlike many of its neighbors, it has a significant industry other than tourism. Grenada has long been known as the Caribbean's "Isles of Spice" and indeed the spice industry remains a major part of the economy here. QM2, like many larger ships, is too big to berth in Grenada so we anchored out in the harbor and would go ashore by tender. Unfortunately, in something of a repeat of our embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale, trouble with local authorities delayed the start of the tendering process. Despite this, shore excursion passengers, us included, were instructed to queue up at the originally appointed time. In hindsight, this was hardly the best plan - the resulting queue was ridiculously long as more and more people began to accumulate for subsequent tour departures while nobody was actually leaving. Nonetheless, after a quick hop ashore in the ship's modern, enclosed tender, passing the MSC OPERA (which barely fit at the island's smallish pier) we arrived in the cheerful capital of St. George's. Here our tour guide, an astonishingly knowledgeable middle-aged Grenadian woman whose knowledge of her island was infinitely greater than that of most of the guides one encounters in the Caribbean, met us. Our tour stopped at the Douglaston Spice Estate where our guide showed us the various spices harvested on the island, and then proceeded on to the highlight, the beautiful Grand Etang Lake in Grand Etang National Park. High in the mountains, this is the water-filled crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded by a lush rainforest, and is definitely not to be missed by any visitor to Grenada. On our way back we stopped at Annandale Falls (as our astute guide wryly said, "it's not Niagara Falls") and finally at the imposing Fort Frederick which affords a stunning panoramic view of St. George's and the famed Grand Anse Beach. At this point we were well and truly exhausted from the heat and humidity and elected to return to the ship. I was pleased to see crew members offering ice water as we waited for the tender - a nice touch that some cruise lines sadly omit. Grenada is certainly not a tourist and shopping Mecca as so many other islands are; I enjoyed its natural beauty and less-touristy atmosphere and hope it continues to succeed in its hurricane recovery. Our last port of call was St. Kitts, properly called St. Christopher. Known as the "mother island of the West Indies", as it was the first British colony in the Caribbean, St. Kitts has moved in recent years from an economy based on sugar cane to one based on tourism. We docked at the brand-new, Carnival-funded Port Zante, a pier accompanied by a modern, characterless shopping center reminiscent of St. Thomas or any number of other islands. Fortunately St. Kitts has not yet lost its charm, as we found after driving to its capital, Basseterre, a cheerful small town with a tiny version of Piccadilly Circus. We then moved on to a former sugar cane plantation that's now a botanical garden batik factory, and then to (for me) the highlight of the island, the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a huge fort on a promontory on the island's coastline that offers a stunning view as well as historical exhibits about St. Kitts' history as Britain's home base in the Eastern Caribbean for over 300 years. St. Kitts as it is today is a beautiful and relaxing island but I fear that in 10 years it may not look any different from so many others that have been overrun with tourists and are crammed with shops selling jewelry and trinkets. I certainly hope the island manages to achieve success in the tourist industry without totally selling out to crass commercialism. After St. Kitts we enjoyed another leisurely two days at sea, racing back to New York at about 27.5 knots, a feat that most modern ships could never hope to achieve. Our early arrival in Brooklyn was followed by a totally painless disembarkation procedure; we were happy to take advantage of Cunard's much-appreciated self-help disembarkation that lets passengers disembark as soon as the ship as cleared if they are willing to carry of their own luggage. We then breezed through the almost non-existent "US Citizens" immigration queue (certainly an advantage of being on a cruise ending in the US where 2/3 of the passengers are from other places) and after a short ride home that we were at our front door by 9 AM. The joys of not having to fly home are not to be underestimated! It was certainly a very enjoyable cruise to some of the less-trafficked parts of the Caribbean. QM2 herself is - as the Grenada tendering experience demonstrated - not really ideal for cruising (though this owes largely to her size, and there are plenty of cruise ships that are almost as big) but her vast array of public areas, facilities and diversions are certainly ideal for voyages like this one with many sea days, as befits a ship designed to spend most of her time at sea on the North Atlantic. While I certainly would never choose her for a port-intensive itinerary I would be glad to do a crossing aboard, or another cruise like this with many sea days to enjoy the ship which, despite her huge capacity, has a wonderfully uncrowded feeling when at sea. QM2 is obviously not the ship for you if you are looking for an intimate, personal experience (and as a fan of smaller ships myself, I certainly know the appeal there), but she offers the ultimate cruise experience for those who accept the large-ship paradigm. Dining: As on QE2, on QM2 your main dining room is determined by cabin assignment. Passengers in standard inside, outside and balcony cabins are assigned to the Britannia Restaurant, a huge two-deck-high room on Decks 2 and 3 that offers dinner in two seatings and open seating for breakfast and lunch. A small number of balcony cabins are now assigned to the Britannia Club, a section of the room in the aft port corner, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner at a single seating. Mini-suites are assigned to the Princess Grill aft on Deck 7 and suites, penthouses and duplex apartments to the Queens Grill, also aft on Deck 7. Both restaurants offer single seating dining for all meals, and an additional à la carte menu (more elaborate in the Queens Grill). While pleasant, I find the Grills to be rather casual looking for formal dining rooms - they look more like stylish urban cafes than grand dining rooms aboard an ocean liner. This is in stark contrast to the monumentality of the Britannia Restaurant and indeed of most of the other public areas on board. Our inside cabin entitled us to dine in the Britannia Restaurant, where we were assigned a round table for eight by a window - an ideal table assignment. Last year aboard QE2 my father and I experienced a bit of table assignment confusion and it seems we carried the curse with us to QM2 this year. Our initial dining companions were a very pleasant couple from Hampshire and their daughter and son-in-law who were now living in Trinidad where the son-in-law worked as a marine biologist. The second night, another couple turned up who had just been assigned our table, but as there was only one empty seat, they were turned away. On night three our original dining companions switched to early seating, as the "kids" were planning on doing a lot of diving in the islands that would require them to get up early. An equally enjoyable couple from Sussex and an apparently very wealthy elderly lady from Manhattan replaced them. The lady stayed for only one night - she seemed to enjoy having a different table each evening, and never repeated a single one - while the couple remained for three nights until some seats opened up at a table with friends of theirs. On night six two single ladies from Rhode Island and a single man from Westchester (New York) joined us, and to our utter astonishment they had been moved (or chose to move - I'm not sure) to a different table every night until then! They dined with us for the last three nights of the cruise. While all these people were very enjoyable dining companions, I must say having so many changes did disrupt the "flow" of things a bit. (Reading this I am sure some of you are getting the idea that we must be really unpleasant dining companions for so many people to have left us but really, it wasn't that way!) After a while it was like a running joke to see who would turn up for dinner. Looking around us there seemed to be an incredible amount of moving around going on in the dining room, far more than I can ever remember seeing on any other ship with fixed table assignments. While this is not the norm, it did change the atmosphere a bit and frankly, not for the better. That aside, the dining experience was very enjoyable indeed, with food that was well above average in quality and a nice balance of traditional and "creative" dishes. My only criticism is that the menu descriptions were rather sparse, so often one had to ask questions to really know how a certain dish was prepared. Very often a menu description would not sound all that appealing but the dish itself would be excellent! Fortunately our steward was very knowledgeable and always happy to clarify things, and in the end I came away pleasantly surprised on many occasions with what I ate. We also ate breakfast and lunch in the Britannia on most days and found the food and service to be very satisfactory on all occasions. Indeed, I would have been perfectly fine having all my meals in here. But QM2 offers a wide range of dining options, and it is certainly worth taking note of some of them. The most popular alternative choice is the King's Court, the main casual buffet restaurant on the ship. Bizarrely located amidships on Deck 7, far away from the pool areas where one normally finds such places, this is a cavernous space that works fairly well but is utterly devoid of any atmosphere. Its only saving grace is a large number of bay windows looking out on the boat deck, which - if those tables are open - are very pleasant. Otherwise it is just a vast cafeteria that serves large numbers efficiently but in rather drab surroundings. Fortunately the food itself was fine - nothing special, but good enough, and an awful lot better than the dreadful buffets on many other ships - and certainly more than sufficient for a quick bite. I would never choose to eat here, though, if the dining room is an option - I usually wound up in the King's Court only if I ate breakfast or lunch too late to eat in the main dining room (e.g. breakfast at 10 or lunch at 2:30), or for an occasional out-of-hours snack. Otherwise the place holds little appeal for me, but obviously I'm in the minority considering just how many people always seem to be eating here. One thing that is worth noting about the King's Court is that while the four sections each offer the same things for breakfast, at lunch there is different food in each one so it is worth taking your time to consider all the options rather than simply grabbing the first thing you see. Menus are helpfully posted outside each entrance outlining the offerings at all the sections, so it is easy to find what you want. The lunch offerings usually mirror the "themes" of each section; hence you'll find traditional fare at the Carvery, Italian-inspired stuff in La Piazza and Asian (and very good it is, too) at Lotus, while the Chef's Galley turns into a deli. At night the four sections are divided up into separate alternative restaurants. The Carvery serves modern British food, the Lotus a variety of Asian cuisines, La Piazza serves Italian and the Chef's Galley - which requires a $20 surcharge - offers "theme nights" like Italian or Indian with the distinction that here, the chefs cook the entire meal in front of you and even offer tips on how to do it at home. (Having perused some of the menus, I would say the home-cooking aspect is only for the very ambitious!) We didn't try any of these for dinner but I've heard excellent things about the food; the Indian night at Chef's Galley garnered especially rave reviews and I was sorry to have missed it. Maybe next time! Then there is the Golden Lion Pub down on Deck 2, where you can get a pub lunch featuring favorites like fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak and mushroom pie and chicken korma. We tried this once and I was rather sorry it was at the end of the cruise or else I'd have returned! The room is a rather poor imitation of a pub but the food is quite tasty aside from the limp American fries that stand in for chips (why a supposedly "British" ship can't get chips right is beyond me). For a more upscale experience there is Todd English, an alternative restaurant created by the Boston chef after whom it is named. This airy, modern room aft on Deck 8 offers creative, modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean accent. Lunch (on sea days only) costs $20; dinner is $30. I enjoyed a lunch of shaved pear and goat cheese salad, Boston style lobster salad on a croissant with homemade potato chips, and mandarin orange crème brûlee with fresh berries. Sir Samuel's on Deck 3, a coffee bar by day, offers pastries for breakfast, sandwiches and other light entrees for lunch, and a selection of cakes in the afternoon. The Boardwalk Cafe near the Pavillion Pool on Deck 12 offers grilled items for lunch, and last but not least, a lavish afternoon tea is served every day in the Queens Room on Deck 3 (and, for Grill Class passengers, the Queens Grill Lounge on Deck 7) with fresh-baked scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream and a variety of tea sandwiches, pastries and cookies. Public Rooms: The vast QUEEN MARY 2 offers a public area for just about everyone's taste. As is the current fashion, most of the public rooms are located low in the ship to maximize the number of cabins with balconies. Down on Deck 2 is the Cunard Connexions conference and computer center, the stunning Illuminations auditorium and planetarium, the Royal Court theatre with excellent sightlines, the large but fairly restrained Empire Casino and the Golden Lion Pub, a haven of kitsch that could be in any chain hotel anywhere in the world. On Deck 3 is the upper level of Illuminations and the Royal Court plus the Mayfair Shops featuring names like Hermes, the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar, Chart Room, Sir Samuel's coffee bar/wine bar, the Queens Room and the G32 nightclub. The Champagne Bar and Chart Room are adjacent spaces with elegant decor reminiscent of the Long Gallery on the original QUEEN MARY. Sir Samuel's, one of my favorite rooms on board, has sleek modern decor with dark-stained wood and glowing jewel tones, while the vast Queens Room returns to the Art Deco theme with a stage modeled on the Hollywood Bowl. High ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and a light, airy color scheme with blue, red and gold accents make this a truly grand space; at the center is one of the biggest dance floors at sea. Finally G32, named after the ship's hull number, is a dark, windowless space with a subtle "industrial" feel. All the public areas on Decks 2 and 3 benefit from extra-high ceilings that provide a sense of space unheard of on smaller ships - one of the positive benefits of the ship's size. Some of the rooms have so much space they look empty even when full to capacity! On Deck 7, in between the Canyon Ranch Spa forward and the King's Court further aft is the Winter Garden, complete with ersatz gates, street lamps, "wicker" furniture and a veritable jungle of fake greenery. Easily the worst decorated room on the ship, it seems deserted except for the inevitable art auctions where some of the "art" is as bad as the room! On Deck 8 forward on the starboard side are the superb Library and Bookshop, with the largest selection of books on the seas. The only flaw in this dark-paneled, forward-facing area is that it's so full of shelves there is only room for a few comfortable chairs. Still, there are plenty of other places to take your books. Forward on Deck 9 are the Commodore Club, Churchill's cigar lounge and the Boardroom. The forward-facing Commodore Club offers spectacular views (sadly, at night the window shades must be closed to avoid glare on the bridge above) and the room itself is a stunner with dark paneling and dark green and white furnishings. Behind the bar is a giant model of QM2 and at night soft purple lighting gives the room an ethereal glow. In the aft port corner of the room is the Boardroom, an inexplicably named but pleasantly decorated sitting room, and its counterpart on the starboard side, Churchill's cigar lounge has the appropriate woody, leathery atmosphere for such a room. Finally, tucked away all the way forward on Deck 11 is the Atlantic Room, a blandly decorated room furnished with card tables that has yet another spectacular forward facing view and is often used for private meetings. Cabins: Like most large ships, QM2 offers a wide array of accommodations. Our category D6 inside cabin, 4065, was about average-sized at 157 sq ft but well designed and pleasantly furnished with light wood cabinetry and gold and black soft furnishings. The bathroom - with real tile, unusual for a new ship - has a large shower stall but sadly, only a curtain rather than the door one might expect these days. The two lower beds, convertible to a double, are comfortable with fluffy duvet covers and the upper berths fold completely into the ceiling. Wardrobe space is adequate though not as ample as one might hope for. Of course there are the requisite safe, hairdryer and whatnot, and the color TV has an interactive system called QM2TV that offers e-mail, shore excursion booking and a host of other features - you can even order cabin service over the TV, though quite why anyone would want to do this is lost on me. (It strikes me as one of those features added "because we could".) There are only a few outside cabins and by far the most common are balcony cabins which come in two flavors; those on the upper decks have smaller balconies with glass railings while the less-expensive cabins on the lower decks offer larger "sheltered balconies" with steel railings. All the balcony and outside cabins are larger than the insides, the difference being a sitting area with sofa. Some of the cabins with glass balconies on Deck 8 have obstructed views and are thus priced lower even than the sheltered balcony cabins, but really, who wants to sit out on a balcony and look at a nice bright orange lifeboat? Going beyond the balcony cabins, the sky's the limit with mini-suites, suites and penthouses and at the top of the range, duplex apartments larger than most people's houses. Why anyone would want to hide out in a fancy cabin with all this ship has to offer is beyond me, but each to his or her own! Entertainment: This is an area where Cunard traditionally excels and QM2 is certainly no exception. The most hyped of her attractions is undoubtedly the planetarium, located in Illuminations. The planetarium dome, which is normally part of the room's ceiling, lowers over the audience for the planetarium shows, which are shown four times a day on sea days and operate on a ticket system for capacity control (it is a simple matter to go down to the Connexions desk and pick up however many free tickets you need). The shows a produced by the American Museum of Natural History in New York and we saw two; "Search for Life", narrated by Harrison Ford, and "Cosmic Collisions", narrated by Robert Redford. I found both quite entertaining and informative and certainly for the novelty value of seeing a planetarium show on a ship it is worth spending a half hour of your time to see at least one of these. Of course, as on virtually all mainstream cruise ships, the main event is the nightly "show', which on QM2 takes place in the Royal Court theatre. As we had a brand new cast on our cruise they spent the first part of the cruise doing rehearsals meaning we had only two shows rather than the usual three; however they certainly impressed. The first, "Rock @ the Opera", was typical cruise ship fare in that there didn't seem to be much of a plot (OK, no plot at all) but the talent displayed by the singers and dancers, along with the staging, costuming and choreography were all first-rate - certainly among the best I've ever seen aboard ship. However, the highlight was undoubtedly the second show, "Apassionata", which refreshingly didn't even attempt the conceit of a plot but rather said flat-out that it was simply going to be a sampling of dancing from around the world. This was truly superb - out of the dozens of cruise ship production shows I've seen Apassionata is easily one of the two or three best. Then there is always the challenge of offering "headline entertainers" on the nights where there are no production shows, and here again Cunard excelled. My favorite was the utterly hilarious ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, whose characters tend to say things a "real person" might not get away with. If ever you have the chance to see Paul on a cruise ship, don't miss it! Paul appeared three times and never failed to leave the audience in stitches. Others included the excellent singer Mark O'Malley, many of whose songs I didn't recognize (a lot of them were from West End/Broadway shows I never saw) but whose great voice and down-to-earth personality made him a joy to watch, and the violinist Vincenzo Gentile, of whom I saw only a very little bit; but from what I saw he was very good indeed. Naturally there is nightlife outside the Royal Court theatre and on QM2 this meant live music for just about any taste. This is a ship that carries two - yes, two - full orchestras, not to mention a bevy of pianists, a string quartet, a dance band and more. The balls in the Queens Room (how many cruise lines have balls these days?) even featured a professional ballroom dance team who displayed their talents at night and offered lessons during the day. On a cruise with so many sea days it is always a challenge to keep everyone busy and here again Cunard did an admirable job. The lecture series is usually a highlight on a Cunard voyage and here it was headlined by the actor Richard Dreyfuss who gave a Q&A session with Cruise Director Alastair Greener as well as a lecture on his projects to improve civics education in the USA. Then there was antiques lecturer Geoffrey Whittaker who lectured on innumerable antiques-related topics and port lecturer Netta Martin who did a nice job of making the Caribbean interesting (let's face it, port lecturers in e.g. the Med have a lot more material to work with) and whose sense of humor was much enjoyed. Finally to round out the offerings there was someone from the Canyon Ranch spa (which runs the ship's spa operations) offering health and wellness advice. While the lecture program is always a draw there were also plenty of other daytime activities including classical concerts by someone billed as the foremost classical musician in the UK (being no authority on the subject I have no idea if this is true, but it did seem a rather grand statement to make), the aforementioned planetarium shows, and so on. All in all it would be quite difficult to get bored on this ship! Fitness & Recreation: In case you've not caught on to the pattern yet, QM2 features the latest and greatest in most everything, so it should come as little surprise that fitness fanatics too will be quite happy aboard. The Canyon Ranch spa, located forward on Deck 7, is one of the largest at sea and here you'll find a vast gym with all the most advanced and expensive equipment, a veritable rabbit warren of treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy pool, "relaxation rooms", saunas, steam rooms, a very chic beauty salon, and on and on it goes. I will freely admit that I'm not a "spa person" but the Canyon Ranch spa on QM2 is so gorgeous I felt like spending time there just to admire the décor! The sleek, modern and vaguely Asian-inspired décor here offers a nice respite from the grandeur of much of the rest of the ship. Of course, the most time-honored form of shipboard recreation is spending time on the open decks, and QM2 offers acres of teak deck space on which to do it. The promenade deck on Deck 7 - three times round is 1.1 miles - is one of the best at sea; it's wide, lined with teak steamer chairs and the forward end is enclosed for use in all weather. Aft on Deck 6 is the Minnows Pool, adjacent to the ship's kids' facilities; Deck 8 aft has the Terrace Pool and Bar; Deck 11 has a small open deck with whirlpool aft and a great observation deck all the way forward; and all the way up on Deck 12 is the Pavillion Pool and Bar, covered by a retractable glass dome. This deck also boasts a vast amount of open deck space surrounded by glass wind baffles, shuffleboard and deck quoits courts, and the Boardwalk Café for light poolside dining. Aft of the Pavillion Pool is also the ship's golf putting green. Deck 13 brings another huge expanse of open deck space with a splash pool, two whirlpools, the Regatta Bar and, aft of the splash pool, an observation platform that raises you up another deck level and gives a 270-degree view (the funnel blocks the view aft). Forward on Deck 13 is the Sports Centre with basketball/volleyball courts, and all the way forward is the Lookout, another forward observation deck whose view is sadly compromised by the high steel bulwark (necessary, but unsightly). Family: QM2 does not appeal to families as much as many other mega-ships, but she does have the requisite facilities, The Play Zone (3-12) and the Zone (13-17) aft on Deck 6. Because it was over the Easter holidays, we did have an unusually high number of families on our cruise and I heard no complaints. Fellow Passengers: Cunard always attracts a more diverse passenger group than most and on this cruise we had around 1,100 Brits, 1,000 Americans, fairly large contingents from Canada, Germany and France and smaller groups from a long list of other countries. The majority of passengers seemed to fall in the "50-plus" age range, though this by no means spoke for all and there were a fair number of younger people as well. All the nationalities seemed to get along well though understandably the French- and German-speakers tended to mingle among themselves. International hostesses were provided for German-, French- and (rather unusually) Spanish-speakers and each language group had a number of special events that seemed well attended. The announcements - kept to a bare minimum on Cunard - were fully translated into all three languages and printed materials were available in all three as well. Dress Code: Cunard is a considerably more formal cruise line than most, though adherence on a Caribbean cruise will generally not be quite as strict as on a crossing. There are three dress codes: formal, informal and elegant casual. For men, formal means dinner jacket/tuxedo (or alternately dark suit), informal is a jacket or dark suit and tie, and elegant casual is jacket (tie optional). Formal and informal dress codes were adhered to well with about 80% of men wearing dinner jackets/tuxedos on formal nights (this is fairy low for Cunard - on some voyages it approaches 100%) and jackets and ties universal on informal nights; elegant casual was spottier with a solid majority of men not wearing the supposedly required jacket. Many were rather unprepared for "elegant casual" as much of the pre-cruise information still contained the old "casual" definition (no jacket required); elegant casual heretofore existed only on QE2 but apparently now goes for QM2 too and the latest Cunard brochures show "casual" having been eliminated altogether. (There still seems to be an awful lot of confusion about this - on our cruise the Daily Programme even listed the old "casual" definition next to "elegant casual" one day!) Our eight-night cruise had three formal nights, one informal and four elegant casual. Generally speaking, days at sea are formal (but with a maximum of three per week), the first and last nights and days in port with departures 6 PM an later are elegant casual, and port days with departures before 6 PM and any other sea days (if more than three per week and not the last day of the cruise) are informal. The dress code applies to all public areas after 6 PM. At least officially, this includes the King's Court, leaving no official casual dinner venue. Gratuity: All passengers are automatically charged the rather cumbersomely named Discretionary Hotel & Dining Charge, which comes to $11 per day for those in Britannia accommodations and $13 per day for those in Grill accommodations. While no additional gratuities are suggested or expected, you are free to tip additionally if you are so inclined. Those wishing to opt out of this program and tip individually may do so by notifying the Purser's Office. An automatic 15% gratuity is added to all bar bills. Rather cheekily, a space is left for an "additional gratuity" - one wonders how many passengers make use of this... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
My wife and I cruised on the Queen Mary 2 for our 1st wedding anniversary. We have cruised on NCL and Carnival ships before but not on Cunard so we were looking forward to trying a premium ship. It was a very pleasant trip. The cabin we ... Read More
My wife and I cruised on the Queen Mary 2 for our 1st wedding anniversary. We have cruised on NCL and Carnival ships before but not on Cunard so we were looking forward to trying a premium ship. It was a very pleasant trip. The cabin we had was not the largest or the smallest that we have had before but it was comfortable. I did find that the fridge in our cabin was already filled with pay as you use pop and water and left no room for anything else. If you are like me and would like to have other refreshments that were not purchased on board, the steward will remove all the items if asked. The food was very good and the excursions were expensive but well organized. We landed in London three days early to see the sights before our cruise as we have never been to London before. We stayed at the Jolly St. Ermins, a very nice and central hotel. When I go back I will definitely consider staying there again. It was excellent for being within walking distance to everything, and while the rooms are small, they are very well kept. They even offer a complementary continental breakfast that had a lot more on the menu than the regular fare. The hot buffet was not worth the extra money they were asking when the free breakfast had more than I could ask for. If you are booking the cruise from anywhere other than England, book your own flight and transfers. You will save over twelve hundred dollars per couple, that is what we used for our three day trip to London and transfers. The amenity's on the ship were very good and the food was excellent. If you are the type who doesn't like dressing up for dinner then this is not the ship for you. On our cruise there were four black tie nights and six semi formal dinners. Even the casual nights a jacket is required. All in all we really enjoyed our time aboard the Queen Mary 2 and would recommend it to people who like a top notch experience. I wouldn't recommend it to families as there isn't a lot to do for small children. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
This is a review of the RSVP Charter of the QM2, which may or may not be representative of the ship in standard service. First off, let me say that the QM2 is stunning and makes an incredible first impression upon boarding. She is elegant ... Read More
This is a review of the RSVP Charter of the QM2, which may or may not be representative of the ship in standard service. First off, let me say that the QM2 is stunning and makes an incredible first impression upon boarding. She is elegant and tastefully decorated throughout. Everything looks massive - the public spaces are huge. And this is one big ship at 150,000 tons - not a good choice for the mobility challenged. With over two dozen elevators and four stairwells, getting around can be a chore, but exploring the QM2 is quite exciting! Embarkation and disembarkation were as smooth as I've ever experienced, even on much smaller ships. Traffic approaching the Brooklyn Pier was quite heavy, but our cab ride from LGA still took only about half an hour. From drop off to baggage check to check in and on to our cabin took less than half an hour. Our cabin was ready when we boarded at 1PM and our bags were in our stateroom when we returned from lunch at 2PM. Already, I was impressed. A bottle of good sparkling french wine was chilled and waiting for our sailaway party, compliments of the Captain. Our stateroom was an A2 Verandah on Deck 11, a top category Britannia cabin. It did not feel as large as the square footage would indicate, but this is most likely due to the verandah itself being larger than most with ample room for two sling chairs and a large table. The bedding was comfortable, but I've had better on HAL and Celebrity. The furnishings were tasteful and elegant, done in light wood tones. A loveseat, coffee table, desk and chair filled the outside end of the cabin. The bathroom was tiny, the smallest I've had since Crystal Harmony. Room for one only. Service aboard the QM2 ranged from very good to excellent. Our cabin steward, Bong, was attentive and friendly, seeing to our every need, including fresh ice for cocktails at 5PM sharp. Bar service was prompt and friendly and we found the drink prices to be reasonable. No gouging here. Service in the dining room was excellent at dinner, as was the wine service. Breakfast service in the dining room was slow and spotty. Service at the Kings Court Buffet was very good, but the worst layout of any buffet at sea. Four different areas, very spread out and hard to navigate, but never crowded and always open. Food is the low point of the QM2. Nothing bad, but nothing great or gourmet. Comparable to Princess, which makes sense since they now operate Cunard under the Carnival corporate umbrella. The best meals were the Rack of Lamb and the Lemon Sole. Soups were watery, deserts rich. Not much seasoning or taste to most dishes. We dined in the Britannia every night but one when we tried Todd English, their specialty venue. For a $30 upcharge I expected better, such as on Celebrity or HAL. Being a crossing of six sea days, activities and entertainment are important and the QM2 did not disappoint. The Spa and Gym are both large and impressive, but the $35 fee to use the steam, sauna and therapy pool seemed excessive. The Planetarium shows are not to be missed - awesome! In addition to the normal Cunard activities we had a host of RSVP Guest Speakers, movies, parties and entertainment the likes of which Cunard has never seen before. The closing show in the Royal Theater was Rock the Opera. I have seen hundreds of shows on dozens of ships, but this was the best production show I've ever seen at sea. Truly West End quality. In summary, the QM2 is surely the most impressive ship at sea and definitely the most expensive ever built. She is fast, stable and smooth as silk. Every space is visually pleasing and spotlessly clean. The Officers and Crew are professional and friendly. The ship is large and can be confusing to navigate, especially areas at the bow and stern such as the Planetarium and the G32 Disco. If the food were up to the standard of the rest of the ship, this could be a five star experience. Sadly, it is not. That said, I would sail on her again in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We returned yesterday from the 4-day "Memorial Day Getaway" cruise on the QM2, a four night cruise with two sea days and one day at the Cunard/Princess private beach at Princess Cays. Since there are any number of QM2 member ... Read More
We returned yesterday from the 4-day "Memorial Day Getaway" cruise on the QM2, a four night cruise with two sea days and one day at the Cunard/Princess private beach at Princess Cays. Since there are any number of QM2 member reviews posted here, I wanted to take a different tack with this review. This was my ninth cruise, but my first with Cunard, having previously sailed with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. When we thought about booking on the QM2, we had a lot of questions about whether and to what extent a Cunard cruise would be different from the "standard" (in the best sense of the word) cruise experiences we had had on other lines. Everyone on the boards was helpful, of course, but since many of them tend to be Cunard "loyalists" with little experience on more mainstream lines, we weren't able to really anticipate whether we'd be as comfortable on the QM2 as we've always been on our other cruises. Accordingly, for those who, like us, might be considering "stepping up" to the QM2 from these other lines, this review will focus on the comparison between our prior mass-market experiences and our QM2 experience. EMBARKATION: We left from the Brooklyn, NY terminal, and it was far and away our smoothest, best organized and most painless embarkation ever. We had booked Princess Grill suites, and therefore had the earliest embarkation time. There were no crowds, plenty of porters to take our bags, and parking was plentiful and very close to the ship. We have previously sailed out of Miami (a nightmare), Manhattan (even worse) and Bayonne (well organized, but you have to be bussed to the ship after checking in) and found that there was absolutely no comparison to the ease of boarding the QM2 -- even though we had had priority check in status at each of those other venues. After going through the normal security screening, you fill out your health form and walk right up to the check in counters. The entire process took no more than ten minutes and, best of all, once you finish, unlike at Bayonne, you simply walk on board the ship, where someone was waiting to escort us directly to our suites. It took all of 30 minutes from the time we drove up to the terminal and dropped off our bags to the time we entered our cabin -- and that includes the time spent parking the car and walking from the parking lot to the terminal. THE CABINS: Just so you know we are comparing apples and apples, we have in the past always booked balcony suites on our cruises, which would be the equivalent class on those ships to the Princess Grill suites we had on the QM2. You wouldn't think there would be much difference between suite cabins on newer ships -- they all have the same basic items -- beds, a couch, closets, a balcony, balcony lounge chairs, a desk area, etc. How different could they be? Well, the answer is -- VERY. The fabrics, the furnishings, the use of space on the QM2 all exceed her reputation, and leave the other cruise lines we have sailed far behind. To be more specific on a few items, as you would expect on a liner that does lengthy world cruises, there was an abundance -- indeed, an overabundance -- of closet space. In addition to the usual "wall o' closets" as you walk in, there is a separate walk in closet with five additional drawers for clothes storage. The bathroom was, by cruise ship standards, absolutely enormous, with room to actually walk around in -- although I was in the cabin by myself, there would have been more than enough room in there for two people to get ready in the mornings at the same time. Another standout feature of the cabins were the beds. I love to go to sleep to the gentle swaying of a cruise ship at sea, but always recognize that in the morning I'm going to wake up achy from the thin mattresses and hard bed surfaces in the cabins. Not so on the QM2. The mattresses were thick, soft and plush. (One odd space concern, however, is that the beds are so close to the desk area that you can't really pull out the chair from the desk, and sort of have to "squeeze" into it to do your makeup in the mirror). The balconies were another delight. Not only were they far deeper (measuring from cabin door to the rail) than on other ships, but the deck chairs were first rate -- varnished teak with removable cushions. Personally, I am a significantly "plus size" cruiser, and on other balconies, have always felt uncomfortable and insecure in the resin or plastic lounge chairs found on the balconies. Here, I spent hours in the incredibly comfortable, secure and wider deck chairs. As a result, I was able to really enjoy the balcony area to its fullest. One of the very few areas on which the other lines beat the QM2 in the cabin was the selection of TV channels. The two English-language movie channels showed third or fourth-rate movies we'd never heard of (ironically, the best movies during our cruise -- the DaVinci Code and the Thomas Crowne Affair -- were shown only on the foreign language channel, alternating in French, German and Spanish), and unlike on RCCL and Celebrity, which both have at least one channel running a loop of half hour sitcoms, there was really nothing to turn on and relax to for an hour before getting ready for dinner. There was also no kid-friendly station running, say, a loop of Nickelodeon shows. While you might chalk that up to the fact that there are far fewer children sailing on the QM2 than other lines, we were told that on our particular sailing there were 200 children (including my five-year-old niece), so it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that passengers will need something to turn on for "quiet time" in the cabin in the afternoons. THE PUBLIC AREAS: The ship is exquisitely beautiful, I would say by far the most beautiful ship we've been on (and we considered many of those ships, including the Grandeur of the Seas and the Carnival Pride and Spirit, also to be lovely ships). The artwork throughout the ship is tasteful and, at times, inspiring. The decor is elegant without being too muted. Every piece of glass and metal on the ship sparkles with attention. The public areas are also extremely well laid out; even on a short cruise, it took us very little time to acclimate to the right deck, and the right elevator bank to get us where we wanted to go. The ship has a feeling of space throughout; with the possible exception of the casino, you never feel that you are crowded by people. Although the hallways by the cabins did seem a bit narrow, the hallways on the public areas, and the space between tables in the lounges always seemed more than ample. SPA: One of my favorite parts of a cruise is the pampering you get in the spa. I always book at least a facial, and preferably also a massage treatment on my cruises. In this area, again, the QM2 far outshone the other cruise lines on which I've sailed. Spas on those other lines are all run by Steiner, while the QM2 spas are run by the world-famous Canyon Ranch Spa. Perhaps as a result, the "menu" of treatments is much broader and more varied on the QM2. This cruise, I opted for my standard facial plus a Thai reflexology treatment (basically, an enhanced foot and calf massage, though I'm sure they would not want me describing it in those simple terms). Both treatments were fabulous, and the facial in particular, had some significant improvements over the Steiner spas on the other ships. For example, during a facial, there comes a point where they have applied a mask of some sort to your face and need to allow it to "set up." In the Steiner spas, they dim the lights, play soft music and leave you just relax while that happens, all of which is quite nice. However, this time during that process, the technician, rather than leaving the room, actually did an arm and hand massage which was a lovely, relaxing touch. But the real difference between the QM2 spa and every other spa treatment I've had onboard ship comes at the end of the treatment. As anyone who has ever had a beauty treatment in a Steiner spa knows, it ends with the technician bringing in the products she thinks you need for your skin, along with the order form and the semi-hard sell. Not so on the QM2; not one word was said about purchasing any follow up products -- although, when I ASKED the technician to recommend a cleanser, she actually spent some time helping me to choose the right one for my skin. DINING: Surprisingly, this is not an area in which the QM2 performed particularly well against its competition, especially Celebrity. The food in the Princess Grill was very good indeed, but at its best never quite as good as the best of Celebrity. Desserts, in particular, tended to be very bland. However, there are two exceptional features of the Princess Grill worth noting. The first and most important is that in the Princess (and Queens) grill, dinner is "open seating;" you have an assigned table, and may show up at any time during the breakfast, lunch or dinner hours (dinner from 6:30 to 9:00). We found this to be infinitely better than either the standard two-seating, set time dinners (which is how the non-suite Britannia restaurant on the QM2 still operates) or other cruise lines' view of "open seating" where you do not have a reserved table (and which, with a large party, can mean that your dinner is "open seating" in theory only, unless you are willing to split up when a table for six, eight or ten is not available when you want to eat). The second highlight was the Princess Grill ala carte menu, which offered several appetizers, side dishes and entrees available every night in addition to what was on that evening's menu. I know that other cruise lines, RCCL and Celebrity in particular, also tell you that certain entrees, usually a grilled chicken breast and a steak, can be ordered at any time, but the Princess Grill ala carte menu was much more extensive and sophisticated than that, including, for example, a superb roasted tomato soup, a beef tenderloin seared tableside with mouthwatering onion rings, and such excellent side dishes as parmesan mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and roasted asparagus, any of which could be ordered to complement the side dishes listed with that nights' menus entrees. If the food in the Princess Grill just missed equaling the best of Celebrity dining, however, much of the food in the buffet Kings Court fell short of some of the worst of any of the cruise lines we'd been on. Hamburgers were inedible, and tasted as if the meat had not been properly refrigerated. Selections at the other stations were hit or miss and tended toward the fancy-for-fancy's-sake. We did not try the Asian portion of the buffet, and so cannot comment on that, though the stir fries did seem to be fresh, varied and hot. But the lunches at the carvery were uneven, from a very dry chicken and mushroom pie (actually, dry chicken and mushroom cubes in a lackluster gravy topped with small pieces of puff pastry) to very good fish 'n not-so-good chips. The Italian section, as well, was very, very uneven. The pizza was passable, but no more, and the Italian buffet entrees lacked flavor. Also hurting the dining experience in the Kings Court buffet was a frustrating lack of organization. I have always liked the idea of splitting up buffet areas into various "stations" each serving a different type of food ever since I first saw that layout on the Carnival Pride. It keeps lines down and, once you get the feel for the general type of food each station has makes it easier to reconnoiter and decide what you want. However, the four stations of the Kings Court are placed much, much too far apart -- the Italian and sandwich/burger sections are aft, while the Carvery/Asian sections are amidship. Thats a big walk just to check out the four stations and decide which you want for lunch. Obviously, there is nothing that they can do about that now that the ship is built. However, the other big lunchtime problem is that they stagger the opening times for the four sections. So if you come to the buffet at 12:00 thinking you're going to have lunch, you'd better want Asian or Italian, because the carvery doesn't open for another half hour. In fact, that was a significant dining problem at other times as well. I've never been on a cruise ship where there wasn't always some place you can get something to eat; on the QM2 on more than one occasion I found myself having to wait for places outside the dining room to open up. Now, since I mentioned before that I'm a "plus size" passenger, let me make it clear that my complaint is not about wanting to spend 24 hours a day eating. It is about making sure that the ship's organization is such that whenever I DO decide to eat in between other activities, that option is available. Of course, the one true 24-hour dining availability is room service. However, the menu not only is limited (though no more so, really, than on other lines), it lacks "straightforward" choices, like a ham and cheese or turkey sandwich, opting instead for more "sophisticated" options like a "club" sandwich featuring a fried egg, dry slices of turkey and undercooked bacon. That said, room service breakfasts were first rate, including specifically one of the very best fruit plates I have ever had on a cruise, including mango, papaya, blueberries, melon and strawberries. SERVICE: As one would expect, QM2 shines in this area. Our cabin stewardess was attentive, efficient and always around (on Carnival, in particular, I have gone days without seeing my cabin steward, and in fact on a couple of recent cruises received notes saying that the cabin staff were available only during specified limited hours). The service in the dining room was absolutely impeccable, with one exception. Our first night out dinner seemed to stretch out forever, and, in order to make the show we actually had to leave before our ordered coffees were served. However, we heard later that there was some ship-wide problem that night, and that some people in the Brittania dining room waited hours between ordering their entree and being served. Since every other night moved smoothly and quickly through courses, I assume that the first night issue was a one-time glitch, having nothing to do with our wait staff. Oh, and of course, for some reason the QM2 feels that your dining experience CAN be complete without a parade of waiters singing "O Sole Mio" and carrying baked alaska on their heads. That custom, kind of cute on your first cruise, becomes boring by your second and annoying by your third. We did NOT miss it at all. Elsewhere on the ship, service is equally good, everyone is attentive, always smiling, friendly and wanting to know how your cruise experience is going. There is definitely a feeling of being pampered aboard the QM2. As with all things, however, there was one notable and annoying exception. On our one port day in the Bahamas, we arrived in the showroom to get our tender tickets only to be told for the first time that we would also need to have our Bahamas immigration form filled out. That requirement did not appear anywhere in the daily ship's program, nor had the Cruise Director mentioned it at all at the end of the show the prior night when he spoke about the arrival in the Bahamas -- although he did speak about the tender ticket process, and therefore was focused on the processes involved in getting to the island. (We were told than an earlier announcement had been made over the loudspeakers about needing the forms to get ashore, but since the announcements are not piped into the cabins, the only way you would have known that was if you happened to be in a public area during the announcement; clearly, the information should have been included prominently in the printed daily bulletin). Worse still, no one in the showroom from the purser's office knew anything about the forms -- though there was a table set up with information on the days activities, there were no blank immigration forms, forcing us to go back to our staterooms, retrieve our forms and fill them out as best we could, all the while having to turn in our tender tickets and get new ones as tender after tender left without us. A really appalling lack of organization, which we chalk up to the fact that, unlike other cruise lines which are constant visitors to the Caribbean and thus have the procedures down, the QM2 spends the vast majority of her time in other areas of the world. DAYTIME ACTIVITIES: I would give the QM2 higher marks in this regard than the other cruise lines I've sailed on, though others might disagree. Personally, I'm not big on poolside games, men's hairy chest contests, or cannonball competitions. If you are, be aware that the QM2 doesn't engage in these particular cruise staples. However, other standard cruise fare, such as trivia quizzes, bingo, line dancing lessons, arts-and-crafts classes and art auctions are found in abundance on the QM2. What gives the QM2 the edge for me, however, are some of the activities that you WON'T find elsewhere, including the lecture series (on our particular cruise, there was a very interesting lecture on the history of pirates and privateering in the Caribbean, as well as lectures on the history of jazz and one by a very entertaining "life coach" about bringing more inspiration into your life). As anyone who has cruised the other "mainstream" lines is aware, what passes for a lecture on those lines is a list of the "preferred" shopping spots in the next port (highlighting, as we all know, those stores that have a financial arrangement with the cruise line). In addition, one activity you won't find anywhere else are the acting workshops conducted by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. On our cruise there were two such workshops, one in the use of voice and the other in stage movement. Clearly something unique and different. The children's playroom and program was first-rate, with the area for 2-5 years olds including a "ball" room (you know, a room filled with plastic balls that the kids can jump around in), games, toys of every description, arts and crafts and a host of other activities. This area also includes a family pool; while the counselors are not allowed to take the kids in the pool for obvious liability reasons, it does give families a separate pool area where you don't have to worry about "disturbing" other passengers who just want to sleep on a lounge chair by the pool. EVENING ACTIVITIES/SHOWS: A caveat on this section: we don't disco and we're not into lounges, so I can't really compare the disco or lounge experience on the QM2 with other lines. For us, the nightlife on a ship revolves around the casinos and the shows. In both categories, the QM2 experience was fine, but no more -- and frustratingly, you could see that it could have been much, much better. All three of the prior lines we sailed would score higher than the QM2 in this category. Starting with the casino, the problem was not that the casino was small; really, it was more than adequate in size, with plenty of slot machines in all different denominations. The problem was that so few of the table areas were consistently open. There were four or five blackjack tables. But except on our first night out, or at absolute peak hours, I never saw more than one or two of them open. There is nothing worse than standing waiting for someone to give up a seat while looking over and seeing two or three tables sitting there idle. It's harder to describe what was wrong with the shows. Person for person, it was absolutely clear to me that these were the best singers and dancers we had seen on any cruise ship, and that the production values -- sets, costumes, lighting -- were as good as on any of our other cruises. In addition, I have to disagree with some reviews I have seen complaining about the showroom itself. We sat all over on various nights, in the back, up front and in the balconies. Sight lines from all three locations were excellent, the sound was first rate, and the seating was very comfortable. Unfortunately, the shows themselves were at times incredibly boring, and, with an exceptional number here and there, never really outstanding. Whoever selected the music and choreographed the dances for the "company" shows really failed to take advantage of the fantastic raw material that he or she had to work with. Especially bad was the rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" which was the finale of one of the shows, which was laughably ponderous -- apparently no one ever told the show's director that the Queen song is a SPOOF of opera, not one to be played straight. Highlights, however, were an enthralling trio rendition of "The Prayer" and an exceptionally well choreographed opening rendition of "Rock Me Amadeus." The same is true of the planetarium shows. They have this marvel of a venue on the ship, and then they fill it with a show that -- literally -- put three members of our party to sleep. Very disappointing indeed. One final note on entertainment. When the planetarium shows are not on, that room is used for showing movies (on our cruise, "Flags of our Fathers" and "Night at the Museum"). It's been a long time since I was on a cruise ship that had a space dedicated specifically to showing movies -- I think the last one was my first cruise eleven years ago on the Monarch of the Seas -- and it's a very nice entertainment option, indeed. PRINCESS CAYS: I won't spend too much time on this, as most QM2 cruisers won't have this as a port of call -- and besides, you can probably read much more thorough reviews of Princess Cays in the reviews of the Princess ships that go there. The island is lovely, with nice white sand beaches, plenty of bar and barbeque venues and the requisite hair-braiding and straw market shops. We opted to rent one of the six bungalows that are available on the island. The are down at the far end of the beach area, in a section shaded by coconut palms, and consist of a small air-conditioned hut just big enough for a round plastic picnic table and four or five chairs, plus a courtyard area with lounge chairs and a shower spray on the side of the hut. We decided to rent it because my sister is currently going through chemo and had to have a place to be out of the worst of the sun. However, having been there, I would now highly, highly recommend renting it if you can (since there are only six of them, they go very fast). It was fabulous. One caveat -- don't plan on swimming in the area in front of the bungalows -- it is far, far too rocky even to wade into (and I have the scratches all over my feet and the back of my legs to prove it). If you want to swim, walk back up to the more "public" area of the beach and go in there. One other note on Princess Cays. The children's program on the island was terrific. They have a list of scheduled activities which you can sign your child up for individually, so that you don't have to choose between putting them in the program for a whole day or keeping them out of it so that you can spend quality time together as a family. BTW, the organization of the tender service coming back from the island could use a serious overhaul. The lines waiting for the tenders were endless, even though we arrived at the tender pier a full 45 minutes prior to the scheduled "last tender." We arrived at the tender pier at 2:15, and reboarded the ship well after 3:30, a really unacceptable delay. AMBIENCE: I treat this as a separate category because this was one of the things we were most concerned about when booking a QM2 cruise: will we feel out of place? will it be too formal and stuffy? will our fellow passengers all be 70-year old cigar-smoking, brandy-drinking tycoons (nothing against 70-year-olds; in fact my 77 year-old-mother was the one who booked this trip for all of us, and is always the most fun person in our party). Bearing in mind that this was a short Caribbean cruise, which one would expect to be somewhat less formal anyway, let me say that all of our fears in that regard were absolutely unfounded. The ship, its passengers and its crew were elegant, but never stuffy. On formal night, there were a lot more tuxedos and evening gowns than I'm used to seeing on an RCCL or Celebrity cruise (I don't think I've ever seen a passenger in a tux on a Carnival cruise), but there were also a lot of dark suits. There were evening gowns, but also dressy pantsuits. Not once did we feel anything but completely comfortable and at ease. DEBARKATION: If possible, this was even better than the embarkation procedure, and far better than any debarkation we've had on any other cruise line (including a nightmarish three-hour wait in the showroom of the Voyager of the Seas, when our cabin class entitled us to be among the first off the ship). The scheduled debarkation time for the Princess Grill suites was 8:45. In fact, they called us shortly after 8:30, and we were off the ship, through customs, had our luggage and were in our car BEFORE 9:00 AM!!!! An unbelievably efficient operation. BOTTOM LINE: I think we would sail the QM2 again in a minute. However, I would not say that this cruise "spoiled us" for the other lines we traveled on. All ships, and all lines, have their strengths and weaknesses. I'm very much looking forward to my next cruise whether it winds up being on Carnival, RCCL, Celebrity or even Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Having been on 25 cruises, and on the QM2 three times I feel I'm qualified to give a fair assessment. Embarkation: was smooth and staff friendly did an excellent job getting us on board quickly. Disembarkation - not nearly as smooth ... Read More
Having been on 25 cruises, and on the QM2 three times I feel I'm qualified to give a fair assessment. Embarkation: was smooth and staff friendly did an excellent job getting us on board quickly. Disembarkation - not nearly as smooth 1 ½ later than predicted which is not a terrible thing, but your left waiting in crowded lounges and when told you can line up for disembarkation the lines were crowded and unmonitored for line jumpers and unpleasant merging. Previous 2 cruises went better than this 3rd. HonestLy if disembarkation of cruises could be sharply improved people would cruise more. I always find myself dreading disembarkation from the moment of embarkation. Two cruise lines have this down well Disney and NCL. I've only cruised Disney once so I won't comment except to say it went very smoothly. I've sailed NCL three times and all were very smooth. I believe it's because your allowed to remain in your cabin unit you luggage ticket color is called. By the time you reach the gangway deck the line is nearly out the door. QM2 is not the worst, but a lot of room for improvement here. Stateroom: Larger than most ships and well maintained by stewards. You get nice little bottles of shampoo and fresh bars of soap everyday. In fairness this is something you won't get on NCL, instead you get wall attached squirt bottle dispensers of soap and shampoo, content quality so so. Dining: Number of selections Very Good, but meals bland, by no means Very Good. Service lacking, and slow, not in par with far less expensive cruises. This was our only disappointment, but a big one. Let's face it good dining is an expectation in cruising. Our previous 2 cruises on the QM2 weren't much better and left us puzzled. We were hoping each time maybe it was just our waiter or bad luck - not so - needs improvement. Dinning rooms almost everyday opened late and crowds would form outside, not a pleasant experience at all. Positive note for us, formal nights are formal and everyone dresses up. In fact you'll see more tuxedos on the QM2 than any other vessel. We like that because it's expected, after all it is the QM2. Activities: Your find the same array as on most ships, but not being a big participant I won't comment. Shore Excursions: Good number of Selections - Well handled, but book early on some or you'll miss out. Service: At Information desk, Shore Excursions, Cabins all Excellent, Dinning Rooms Fair, and lounges Good. Entertainment: Shows were good overall in the theater and in lounges the big band and top 40 bands were Very Good, Lounges: The deco and layout of QM2 lounges is probably its greatest strengths. The cathedral ceiling in the ballroom and sheer size of the dance floor are unmatched by any other ship. Anyone loving ballroom dancing will surely sail this ship more than once. The Disco Tech is just that a technical wonder of modern displays and lighting. These areas and others really help compensate for any other personal disappointments. Summary: Would I sail her again – honestly not sure, I suppose if I found a real great promotion price – Yes. However subject to previous fairs no. Although it is normal not to be as impressed the 2nd and 3rd time around, we honestly felt the service was slipping away. The ship deserves a 4 ½ to 5 ½ Stars. But service overall 3 ½ to 4 based base on dinning Final rating 4 Star – dinning experience is just too important especially at QM2 rates. However - everyone should cruise her once – she a Beautiful Ship. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
After four cruises on similar sized ships on different lines (H/A, Crown Princess, Carnival Miracle, and now the Cunard QM2), and all with similar stated offerings for the price, this is the most varied review I have written. A four- ... Read More
After four cruises on similar sized ships on different lines (H/A, Crown Princess, Carnival Miracle, and now the Cunard QM2), and all with similar stated offerings for the price, this is the most varied review I have written. A four- cruise history puts us still in the neophyte category of cruisers. And despite what follows, we had a good time. We have just completed a 4-night Labor Day get-away NYC to Halifax and the experience was a mixture of plusses and minuses. Cabins and overall service were a letdown; public areas a plus; food was good to OK, and the overall ambiance was definitely a plus for my wife and me. We traveled with two other couples, who had little or no cruise experience, and one set of infant twins who seemed to have a great time. (The kiddie facilities got high grades). They did comment on the small cabins, but all had a good time. Overall, Cunard is reminiscent of, or actually probably still is, an old-World steamship line (my wife had sailed them long ago) with a real ballroom, large well-appointed restaurants, bars and lounges, which were intriguingly intimate, with a more staid, well-dressed and seasoned country club crowd, and a classic teak promenade deck that was straight out an old movie with real wooden deck chairs and cushions. This is a beautiful ship in and out, meticulously maintained, and well laid out with many elevator banks; very easy to master. The ride was rock steady - she cruises real well on her 30' hull. Embarkation from Red Hook in Brooklyn (our second time) took more than an hour and a half - not staffed well enough (Princess took 20 minutes from the same terminal and that ship had 3600 passengers). Our friends had just gone out on QM2 earlier in the month and had the same experience. Cabin steward - Ours was Stanley the ghost; we never met him in the flesh. This was the first cruise where we were not greeted by our steward or anyone one else that cared for our room and never met him afterwards. The room experience was just like a boring executive hotel experience, without the smiling concierge. Forget about any extra touches. Also, unlike other cruises, no passenger survey at the end of the trip....or maybe Stanley just forgot. This was bad. Sadly, this kind of service was the theme reported by many throughout the ship for all not in First Class. Slow and detached, highly impersonal dining service was the rule, even in the Todd English dining room. It had that 'last morning on the ship' feel to it. The service was the worst of our four cruises by far and not at all what we were expecting. We were traveling second class, and were aptly treated as such. It was interesting, but this ship technically has a high percentage of premium cabins - the norm for all modern large (2000+ passengers), but it never felt premium. Only in the bars and lounges did you get the kind of attention that one would expect. Considering the price was the same (about $200+ per person per day) as our other cruises, this was the smallest and least appointed 'premium balcony' cabin we had stayed in - #4163 B3 class. Upon first walking in I had the same feeling I had when I first stayed in an English hotel - even a good one - isn't this cozy. It had a small bathroom with a tiny, dark shower stall; the cabin barely had enough storage space. It was a 'hull-level' cutout premium balcony - just a 5 x 4 hole cut out of the ship's hull; very dark for a balcony cabin - all the B's were - which rarely received sunlight. When you sat in it you could only look-up at the sky, like being a steel basement with lawn furniture. But, it was a good place to enjoy a smoke. We saw some of the First Class A-class balconies on Deck 8 and these were still smaller than our other 'premium balcony' rooms on other cruise lines, but they at least had the glassed-in and airy open balconies (but 50%-100% more expensive). And on deck 8, the 'First Class upgrade deck', all these cabins faced the lifeboats. Our cabin could use better sound-proofing - you could hear anyone talking on their balcony, as the steel box would reverberate with chatter; worse, in bed at night, you could hear the guy next store snoring. Other features - The library was a fabulously singular and beautiful place, with a huge selection of books and downloads/printouts of the major newspapers each day, easy Internet access, and a great place to just hide out. Organized Duplicate Bridge was the best I have experienced (I had never played Duplicate, and neither had several others, to the chagrin of the more experienced set. At first I forgot most of Bridge, as I was blinded by protocol). Bridge players tended to be seasoned cruisers, and all that I met had 10 times my experience. Many were from First Class and their insight into QM2 was interesting. Anyone who used the spas or gym gave them high grades. The Churchill Cigar Bar was excellent, with a good selection of fair-priced Dominican and Cuban cigars (mine were the same price I pay at home - very unusual). Dining was a mixed affair - Room service in the morning was about the same as the other lines. Main dining room - diner food was about the same good quality as H/A or Carnival, but with fewer choices. Lunch in the dining room was better than any other ship we have been on - the Canyon Spa lunch was really good and only 400 calories! Breakfast - the food court seems half the size of those on similar ships, not laid out particularly well, and more difficult to find a table - and has a real cafeteria quality to it; hence, many people tend to eat more in the main dining rooms. Actually, it was just a case of becoming more savvy with your approach to eating there. After two days of trying all possibilities, the food court was fine for breakfast and lunch, but it would really disappoint the Carnival and Princess crowd. Junk food - Good hot dogs, sausage, mediocre pizza, drippy soft ice cream. The pub lunch in the Lion was a really good alternative to other restaurants (also free); excellent beer. Todd's English premium restaurant - it was better than Princess (all service, mediocre food), but behind H/A (a truly great steak house) and way behind Carnival's Nick and Nora's (great steak, veal, fois gras, caviar, fish and lobster, etc., and drop dead service to go with it). TE is #3 on our list. TE is a very lovely room that, unlike other premium restaurants, is sited adjacent to and looking onto the pool deck, so we got to see up close how the staff cleans the aft deck and pool while we dined. This is due to the fact that the First Class dining rooms have taken all the best locations. Anyway, by all means, have drinks and tapas at the bar before sitting down, because the experience declines from there. No big steak (could not believe this), no giant lobster tail and no caviar (I mean the kind we normally pay extra for) and no table side Caesar salad. Just seemed a slicker version of what they served downstairs. My tuna was overcooked, after begging for anything other than well done. But then again, when one orders yellowtail filet, one expects a light filet and not a thick puck resembling a well-done filet mignon; I think 'Tuna Steak' might have been more descriptive. My grilled octopus and squid dish was squid only - I guess they figured no one would know the difference. The obviously vegan corn chowder had chunks of pork in it. The gnocchi, lamb, and veal dishes were very good. Desserts were OK to very good. My Crème Brulee did not have a proper glazed sugar crust (just syrupy) and was obviously made much earlier in the day and had dissolved - oh, please. Service was just ok (the norm for the ship). We still had a good time there. Alcohol and wine - Here is what is really interesting about this ship - after the welcome aboard Veuve Cliquot on embarkation ($16 for a split!) - all other bar drinks ($3-4) and room service ($20 for a 5th of gin with 6 cans of tonic) were 25-50% cheaper than the other lines. Do try the Planters Punch for $3. Wine was even a better deal - again 25-50% less than the other ships. Very good selection and here, the sommeliers gave you the best service at each meal. Best was in Todd's - three really good bottles of wine, including a superb and well-priced Amorone. Outside - As I said earlier, QM2 had the best promenade of any of the ships and we used it - great after breakfast and in the afternoon. The weather was perfect for this. What is really interesting is that although the overall pool and sundeck seemed smaller than any of the other ships, it was far superior, better designed and appointed, with better furniture, and better serviced throughout the day. Not as much food nearby so it never had that tacky look you see on Carnival and Princess (hence the importance of getting a really good balcony room on those lines). Entertainment - We only saw one show, which was very good. Ballroom Swing night was excellent and a lot of the folks really knew how to dance. Lounge performers were better than most cruises; the reggae band was really good. Bars and lounges - I give all of them high grades - big and well appointed, with carefully isolated smoking areas (no one complained either way). They also had the most attentive and friendly staff on board. We spent a lot of time in the Lions Pub during the day, the Commodore before dinner, and then back to the pub. Great cappuccino for $2 in all the bars and lounges - and in real china (or paper cup, if you want it 'to go.') Disembarkation - out of your room by 8:30 and off the boat at 10:45 so they promised - but everyone was off the ship by 9:30 - a nice surprise. Yellow cabs were slow in coming, so we called our local car service. I would like to return to Cunard QM2, but I would either stay in an inside window cabin (a nice sized room, as it includes what would be the balcony), especially in cooler weather, or save up money for an A-level balcony cabin on decks 11 or 12, even though it's considerably more expensive - and with it what are reported as superior dining and service amenities, and speedier embarkation and disembarkation. All of those that we spoke to that loved this ship had only sailed Cunard or were in the Deck 11&12 balconies or suites. Many had only done Atlantic crossings. I feel that, like it or not, this ship has been designed for such class-conscious travel and that they have failed to compete adequately with other premium balcony offerings on other lines. An interesting plus about this trip was that I got as much good cruising time in 4 days as I have had in 9 days on others lines - so maybe First Class for 4 days might be a better bargain in that context. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Embarkation: Arrived at New York JFK late morning of 20th November 2007 after experiencing a pleasant flight via British Airways out of London Heathrow. Baggage claim at JFK was easy and being marshalled to our coach for the journey to ... Read More
Embarkation: Arrived at New York JFK late morning of 20th November 2007 after experiencing a pleasant flight via British Airways out of London Heathrow. Baggage claim at JFK was easy and being marshalled to our coach for the journey to join the ship was a quick and slick operation. The journey to Brooklyn Terminal was very slow as the traffic was horrendous. Must have taken over 1hr. On arrival at the Terminal our baggage had to be unloaded from the coach and then identified before it could be loaded into crates by the terminal portering staff and put onboard ship. To our amazement the shore side porter announced that luggage had to be identified and before put onto the ship we had to pay the fee of $10 per person (the minimum going rate). Being tired after the long journey and wanting to get on board the QM2 I foolishly paid up for my wife and me ($20). Needless to say we were conned as these guys get paid for doing the job anyway. I have raised the issue with Cunard. Checking in before going onboard was efficient and speedy, we were greeted by staff and was given directions to our cabin which was easy to find. Accommodation: Stateroom 5137 was an outside cabin with a covered balcony Deck 5 Midships. Adequate in size with all the usual facilities you would expect. Ample wardrobe and drawer space, good sized double bed, interactive TV, mini bar/fridge and adequate shower/toilet and wash basin facilities. Plenty of storage under the bed for 4 suitcases. The balcony has 2 chairs (Not sunbeds) and a table. However when in the chair you could only see the sky through the balcony aperture as you were low down. To appreciate any views you had to be standing. Room service was excellent, you could guarantee, when requested, there would be a knock on your door within 10 mins with you order request. I was a little surprised there were no tea/coffee making facilities in the stateroom, this meant having to ring room service every time you fancied a drink in the cabin. So more workload for the staff. Cabin steward was just OK. He did what he had to do, but was a little lax. He left our door open/unlocked one day whilst we were onshore. We had to request the replenishment of shower gel even though it was obvious we had run out of same. Finally he had forgotten to provide the complimentary slippers which are provided to guests. Britannia Room Dining: Allocated a table for 6 (2nd sitting 8.30 pm) and we enjoyed the company of the other 4 passengers for the evening dining for the whole cruise. Service at table by the 2 waiters was OK. The main guy tried very hard whereas his sidekick was a little surly. The exception to the norm was the wine waitress, she knew her stuff and was very attentive. No real complaints about the food, but the did have a surfeit of Asparagus and plenty of steak on the menu. For dessert, asking for the selection of cheeses, we found it quite amusing. Was supplied with 2 Ryvitas and a few small biscuits. The cheese selection consisted of 4 varieties and when you lumped them all together you were lucky to fill half a Ryvita with it all. Service between courses was sometimes slow and the excuse given was they had to concentrate on the tables for 2, within their section, first and as we were a table of 6 we could while away the time in conversation! Ship's other facilities: Breakfast and lunch dining in the ancillary locations was very good, La Piazza and Lotus restaurants offering a good selection both for breakfast and lunch. (We preferred the self service option for these meals). Queens Room for afternoon tea as a must, sometimes just music, other times a Tea Dance. But Tea, sandwiches, cakes served by waiters/waitresses wearing white gloves. A touch of the Ritz/Savoy in London. Casino: Adequate Entertainment: Varied during the day to suit all tastes, from Classical to Caribbean. However the evening shows in the main theatre were hyped by the Cruise Director as magnificent, but from our experience, the resident theatre company of singers and dancers were below par (especially when compared against P&O). A couple of good acts gave individual performances, namely a magician and a pianist/comedian. The Cruise Director who introduced the shows and also did a 'Good Morning' slot on the ship TV left a lot to be desired. He lacked personality, constantly 'fluffed' his lines and was not a slick operator at all.. Ports of call: Tortola, St. Kitts, Barbados, St Lucia and St. Thomas Shore excursions, are as ever expensive, but if you want peace of mind and a guarantee the ship will still be waiting for you on your return from the trip then this is the way to go. However with the exception of Barbados, there are adequate Taxi drivers who will give you at least a 3hr tour for £20 per person. Tip is to do this early to ensure you get back to ship in case a problem occurs. We tried to get a private trip in Barbados, seeing it was a Sunday, and most of the shops in town would be closed. The Taxi drivers were arrogant and unhelpful, the wanted to know where exactly you wanted to go and for how long and charge a minimum of $80. No suggestions of itinerary forthcoming. St. Lucia: We took a shore excursion to Sandals resort as we had friends staying there at the time. $189 each. We had use of all the facilities including lunch/drinks, but the Cunard organization was not good. We were offloaded at Sandals, the Cunard Rep. did not know any procedures for the day. A Sandals rep advised to be at the collection point at a set time for return to the ship. After which we were left to our own devices. Luckily we had friends on-site to show us how to get on during the day. Not what you expect for one of the most expensive shore trips of the cruise. Tortola: Ship excursion (Historical Sites) Very good. St. Kitts. & St Thomas : Private Taxi tour New York: Inbetween disembarking on the morning of the 30th November and having to be at JFK airport at 3pm. Cunard organized a coach tour of Manhattan to fill in the time. Free of Charge. This was a nice touch and a good tour. Disembarkation: Had to vacate stateroom at 8.30am, had to hang around for 2 hours in the Theatre before were called to leave. Although the tour as mentioned previously compensated for this. Summary: QM2 is a fine Ocean Liner which does cruises (i.e. not built as a cruise ship) From outside it is a most impressive looking ship, inside it lacks that 'WOW' factor and unfortunately you are constantly reminded that everything that is done/provided i.e. service, food, facilities, entertainment are the best because it is the QM2. I beg to differ, there are better cruise lines around, unfortunately Cunard are living on a reputation, which unfortunately does not come up to scratch in certain areas.. We enjoyed our time and thankful of the experience, but would not purposely rebook on the QM2 Read Less
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