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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
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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
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