Several weeks ago we arrived home from our cruise on the Queen Mary 2. It was her inaugural Caribbean Voyage and it was truly a unique experience! Being that it was only the second voyage the ship had made there are bound to be some gripes but I will not be too harsh on the ship's hard-working staff.
Embarkation: After much anticipation the time was here to board QM2. It was a rainy day in Fort Lauderdale but that didn't seem to bother many people and spirits were generally high. When we entered Port Everglades we were run through the metal detector and into the waiting area where they do check-in and boarding by color, (they give you a colored card when you enter). We were fortunate because they called our color to check-in and board at the same time. Soon thereafter, (about 30 minutes wait in the terminal), we were on our way up the gangplank into the vessel. You first enter the ship on 3 Deck, the second story of the main lobby near the Mayfair shops. After hearing all the hype about how HUGE the ship is I was surprised to find that the lobby area was rather intimate and maintained a truly warm and home-like feeling. We waited in line to get an elevator, (painfully slow elevators on board the entire ship), and went up to 8 deck.
Our Stateroom: A walk down an amazingly long corridor, (more than 1/8 of a mile), brought us to our balcony stateroom, # 8012. It was located forward in the ship, port, and was a category B2 I believe. Our room was the first room in front of the lifeboats on 8 deck offering us an unobstructed view. On first entering the stateroom I noticed the muted and relaxing color tone in warm reds, golds, beiges, etc. The walls were neutral and all of the wood was a very light, pretty laminate. As we made our way onto the balcony I noted that it was larger and more private than others we'd been on. Unless you're in a suite the floor of the balcony is that hideous non-slip paint instead of teak. I was also disappointed that the furniture on the balcony was plastic instead of the traditional teak steamer chairs. At least they were lounge chairs and were still quite comfortable.
Our room steward was Dennis and he was an excellent room steward. Immediately he granted our request for a corkscrew, ice, etc. We didn't see him too often during the cruise but he truly anticipated all our needs and was very kind when we did need his help. He never skipped a beat when we asked for extra pillows, soap, shampoo, buckets of ice, champagne flutes, etc.
The Public Rooms: It took quite some time to explore the ship and most of our 11 night cruise to get used to the layout. It's not enough to say that the ship is HUGE, GIGANTIC, AMAZING. It truly is a marvel to be on board such a large thing. It felt like a very large hotel. Right away a few spots on board caught our eye. The Queens Room, (ballroom), is quite exquisite. I've heard some say that it was tacky. Although we all have our own personal tastes I don't concur. I thought it was a subdued, tastefully decorated room. The only time we actually spent any appreciable time in the Queens Room was during the Captain's Cocktail Party.
We requested a table for two in the Britannia Restaurant but were assigned to a table for six. We spent a few minutes waiting in line to change our table to one for two and it was done immediately without complaint. No problem there. The Britannia Restaurant is an amazing art deco space with fabulous wood veneers and deep blue carpeting. It's again grand yet relaxing and subdued. We ate there several times and had fantastic meals again and again. Our waitpeople were helpful and very professional. Grazyna, (our wine stewardess), was very helpful and always pleasant. She was truly one of our favorite people on board.
Dining: The Todd English Restaurant lives up to it's namesake. The space is again decorated in a subdued palate of gray, burgundy, and white. The waitstaff in this restaurant is second to none. The food is just superb. They are open for lunch and for dinner but will only accept one reservation per stateroom for the entire voyage, (unless you're in a suite in which case you can have as many reservations as you want. More to come on the separation of class on the ship)! We were fortunate to have lunch and dinner here because I was persistent and asked for another reservation every day until they gave me a second one. Once you settle into your stateroom go immediately to Todd English and make your reservation, (preferably for dinner). Be prepared to wait for about 20 minutes in line and don't whine! It's worth it.
The Kings Court (The Carvery, Chef's Galley, Lotus, La Piazza)
This "lido" style restaurant offers the most boring food in the morning. Eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, cereal, etc. They do have an egg station for fried eggs, omelettes, etc. Thank goodness because the standard scrambled eggs are insipid at best. The food was sometimes hot, sometimes cold, sometimes old but hey...That's a buffet for you. As a side note breakfast in the main dining room is fantastic. We did not lunch here but once. It was all right. OH...The Chef's Galley has a great sandwich station for lunch. Go there if you don't like the selection in the King's Court.
At night they separate the buffet areas from the tables with decorative screens and dim the lights. The black lights have a really interesting effect on the room and although it sounds tacky it somehow fits. Lotus is the asian restaurant and the food is wonderful. They have a twelve course tasting menu and everything was delicious, especially the crab cakes, crispy duck spring roll. As a side note, we don't like to rush dinner. We like to take our time and relax and there was an overall rushed feeling everywhere we went to eat. Don't let your servers rush you. Simply tell them you'd like to relax and slow down. They'd be more than happy to do that.
The Carvery is a restaurant serving carved meats, prime rib, yorkshire pudding, etc. The food was quite good. La Piazza has an open appetizer bar, (set up on one of the buffets), and you serve yourself for the first course. I think it would be nicer if they served you. Also your inclination will be to try a bit of everything and by the time the main course comes you will be full! The food wasn't quite as good here as the rest of the dining venues on the ship but worth a try just the same. Perhaps we just went on an off night. The Chef's Galley was one of our favorites. It is a really small venue at the end of the Kings Court where there is a demonstration kitchen. There are only ten tables so it really is very intimate. From the beginning of the voyage they kept telling us there would be a celebrity chef cooking in the Chef's Galley but they wouldn't tell us which night. It turned out we got him on the night of our reservation. It was Daniel Orr from NYC. This venue is very interesting because the kitchen is open and every table has a view of it. We got to watch him prepare three courses for us and then taste them. After each course he went around from table to table giving people cooking tips and answering their questions. I would highly recommend eating here and don't forget to make your reservation early.
We did not get a chance to eat at the Boardwalk Cafe but people said it was all right.
There are several clubs and fun spots on board. Our favorite was The Commodore Club and Churchills Cigar Lounge. At Commodore, (which is forward, port to starboard, overlooking the bow, they have a fantastic martini menu. We went every night and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Sinisha was our waiter every night, (he always had the same section), and we enjoyed talking to him very much. If you go to the Commodore make sure you say hello to Sinisha. Mark was also wonderful and kind but at the end of our cruise was promoted to Bartender at the Crew Bar. Congratulations Mark!
The Chart Room is an exciting bar, located midship on deck 3 it has wonderful walls of windows and a large drink menu. The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar is small and intimate but very beautiful. They have a rather limited champagne menu, and if you want a cocktail they have to get it from the Chart Room. They serve wonderful little snacks like caviar, smoked salmon, canapes, etc. but do so during very strange hours. For example several times I wanted to have some caviar before dinner and was told they stopped serving caviar at 2:00 or 3:00 pm. I think they should revisit this policy and consider having caviar during all open hours.
Although we only went to Sir Samuel's Wine Bar once I found it to be a cozy space and the wine list, (although limited), was quite nice.
The Golden Lion Pub is a good spot for lunch. I wouldn't spend much time there otherwise. The fish and chips was excellent and that's about all I can say seeing as we went there only twice for lunch, and both times I had fish and chips!
Ports of Call: Ports are ports. I would rather spend my time talking about the ship! We did visit St. Kitts, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, and San Juan. They were all great, all had something different to offer, so on and so forth. I would go back to all except Dominica, (which I hear is an amazing spot for rainforest), but the pier area didn't hold my interest and wasn't very exciting.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Queen Mary 2 is truly an impressive ship and I feel very lucky to have been on one of her inaugural voyages. It is something I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. We really did feel pampered. There were a lot of people on the ship that were griping and moaning and complaining. I felt like telling them to stick a sock in it. It was obvious that they were the QE2 crowd who expected everything to be absolutely perfect. They complained about finger prints on the elevator door, (which incidentally is mirrored), GO FIGURE! They complained about having to clear customs as if it were Cunard's fault. They complained about embarkation, disembarkation, the food, the service, the carpeting, the chandeliers, etc, etc, etc. It was very frustrating to have to listen to that during such a special time.
Far from complaints, there are a few small things Cunard could do to bump QM2 up a few notches:
1. The room service menu was quite small. It could stand to be a lot bigger than it is. The breakfast room service menu was quite small as well.
2. The stateroom TV's can be very confusing. It would be great to have simper operation.
I would highly recommend the Queen Mary 2 to anyone who wants a relaxed cruise. As the average age of the guests on our voyage was about 65, (I am younger), we found it rather sedate. No matter where we went there was a table for us. No rooms were ever too crowded for us to sit.
I certainly plan to sail aboard QM2 again in the future, (maybe in a couple of years), once the staff is well seasoned and all of the kinks are ironed out.
To any of you about to board her, she is magnificent and worth every penny! Any questions feel free to e mail me at Tmoue106@aol.com Bon Voyage!