Queen Mary 2 (QM2) - Trans-Atlantic: Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Review by KenC

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) 5
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Queen Mary 2 (QM2) - Trans-Atlantic

Sail Date: September 2005
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Southampton
So much has already been written about Queen Mary 2 so here are just a few personal reflections and pertinent observations on the westbound Transatlantic Crossing of 8 September 2005.

Embarkation was so effortless that it felt as if there was no one else sailing. Arriving at the QEII terminal around 12.40pm we were checked in immediately, onboard by 1.00pm and in receipt of luggage and unpacked by 1.30pm. We were offered but declined the offer of an escort to our staterooms.

Sailaway was a jolly affair and on a warm late summer evening had more Caribbean flavours than Transatlantic. Yes the live group played YMCA and a string of modern songs, but strangely they didnt seem out of place in this party atmosphere, that is unless you prefer to stand to attention and listen to museum pieces used to send off the Titanic. Much champagne was drunk and everyone on the packed aft decks seemed to be having a good time.

The ship was immaculate, maybe the carpet More didnt have that unused spring of the maiden voyage but everywhere sparkled. Much has been written on the interiors but for me on second sight they are tasteful, timeless and on the grand scale, as I imagine a transatlantic liner should be. Our seasoned travelling companions on seeing them for the first time were blown away. The only downside was the lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke in some bars  when will cruise lines realise that allowing smokers to use the full length of the serving bar is akin to making the whole bar smoking? (Perhaps when they fall in line with US and many European governments ongoing plans to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces  Id give it 10 years maximum!)

Dining in the Britannia was so much improved on our first time. We ate at second sitting on a table for four (table 95) on the lower level at the foot of port side of the staircase. Location was perfect, food ranged from good to excellent and the service by Stephen and Michelle was amongst the best we have ever received onboard a ship. A good selection of wines was available at prices comparable to other cruise lines. Dress code was almost entirely observed - the only exception being an Italian family who not only dressed down for dinner but arrived late at 9.00 - 9.15pm every night. A complaint to an assistant maitre d managed to raise a shrug of the shoulders and an assurance that the story that they did not have suitable clothes had been checked out  presumably by the QM2 clothes police? I didnt believe him.

Lunch was taken every day in the Kings Court which, apart from a few rude fellow passengers and an odd luke warm hamburger, was still an enjoyable experience. Except for the odd 5 minute rushes there were few lines and plenty of tables to sit at unless you absolutely must have one of the bay windows! We found that the large seating area between La Piazza and Carvery serveries always had space. I think this is an attractive casual dining facility and with new signage is very easy to use  I really cant understand why anyone would dislike it unless they are extremely impatient, or perhaps lunchtimes are more laid back affairs during Crossings? The choice and quality of food here was still extremely good in spite of the fact that they never had shepherds pie once this trip!

Staterooms were adjacent outside C2s, aft on Deck 5. They were both wheelchair accessible so the bedroom space was less than Id hoped having previously seen other cavernous C2s. This was compensated by the vast bathroom with walk in shower, but no tub. The beds and bedding are still probably the best on the high seas, space was more than ample and the huge window (it can hardly be called a porthole) gave us more than enough view of the grey Atlantic every day. Both cabins were in pristine condition and were kept so by the very attentive Raul who was always on hand for even the smallest request.

We had seen and enjoyed both production shows before (Appassionata and Rock @ The Opera), but somehow they were performed with even more style and enthusiasm than the more nervous maiden voyage renditions. Juggler Edge and solo violinist Claire Grogan were not our cup of tea, but the show given by Maurice Clark, an excellent vocalist, was very enjoyable. The demand for Planetarium shows was as strong as ever, with tickets for the early afternoon shows running out well in advance (you can pick up tickets for each of the daily shows from the desk in ConneXions on the day). We didnt come across any broken seats in visits to three shows, but Cunard really should introduce some new shows before too long. Carly Simon was returning to the US following her recording on the previous eastbound crossing and gave an interview with Cruise Director Brian Price  not being huge fans, we decided to give that a miss.

Not much has been written about the Black and White or The Ascot Balls. Let me just say that there was something of a party spirit on this crossing and both balls were very well attended with dress codes largely adhered to. There was standing room only in the Queens Room on both nights but the Ascot Ball, with its hat parade and champagne fountain, had a party atmosphere akin to New Years Eve the like of which I had never seen onboard a ship for many years. As I expected, G32 came into its own later in the evening of a crossing  it had been dead on most nights of the maiden voyage.

Brian Price was a bearable cruise director and was obviously of the old school with previous experience on Cunard. His disembarkation talk joked about being easier to go down one box and give full marks for everything, but at no stage did he ask outright for such. He did suggest that passengers not mark a whole department down for one less than perfect experience but rather use the comments box to highlight the problem and mark that department based on the remaining experience  which I thought was a fair comment to make.

Queen Mary 2 made the crossing itself seem effortless. Commodore Warwick was in command and not a Princess Captain to be seen anywhere in fact, to my surprise we sailed under the blue ensign!!!. in spite of Force 7 storms on days 1 and 3 (we were told we were sailing in between two hurricanes  and they could be clearly see on the bridge radar), she maintained a steady 24 to 25 knots throughout the voyage. The windows along the forward section of Decks 2 or 3 were still the best vantage points to get the thrill of the ship slicing through those rough seas. Some of the outside top decks were closed during the bad weather, but Deck 7 promenade proved to be a haven for an outside stroll in all types of weather. The weather on Day 5 in fact turned out to be more Caribbean than Atlantic and we sun worshippers got 6 or 7 hours of uninterrupted sunbathing.

The kennels were in use but I was amazed to see how small and cramped they were! There appeared to be about 6 or 7 cages but arranged in 3 levels one above the other  my late red setter Oscar would not have been amused to travel this way! One section of the deck was gated off when the two pouches onboard had their free time, but given the size of the ship I think it is a small and mean facility.

There were approximately 2,300 pax onboard and 2,200 pax booked on the following eastbound crossing. This 84 to 88% of capacity, plus the summer crossings being mostly full, must be good news for those who wish to see the QM2 transatlantic service survive and flourish. These figures also represent a 20  30% increase on QE2s maximum transatlantic capacity, so who can say that the demand is not there? The Commodore commented that the 2006 round South America to Hawaii and back season now has only limited availability  he also mentioned it would be his first time around the Horn and joked that it was a long way to take the wife home for the day!

Our last day came and went far too quickly but there was one more highlight to look forward to. Unfortunately no one told us that it would be pitch black when we sailed into New York!!! It was interesting to see the Narrows bridge, Statue of Liberty and Manhattan lit up  but its not like seeing it in daylight! We docked at Pier 90 and quite frankly I dont know how anyone can argue about the ship moving to Red Hook when the facilities in Manhattan are so dilapidated  that neighbourhood of Manhattan isnt exactly Park Avenue either. Temporary or permanent, a move was surely inevitable given the state of these facilities?

This is a superb service on a superb ship. A truly Grand Transatlantic Crossing and quite frankly, the only way to cross. It may have been our first Queen Mary 2 crossing but I have a feeling it wont be the last. Less

Published 05/05/06
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Cabin review: ED5267

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