Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Review by nyckruzer
- Sail Date: May 2004
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
The first person I saw on boarding was my twenty year buddy, Maureen Ryan, the ship's hostess. She and I go back to QE2 in the early 80s when she was hostess and I was cruises sales manager. She and I can talk down and dirty about everything behind the scenes...and we did. She remarked that this ship was ready to deliver, without any significant hitch, two weeks before delivery date. And that is fairly unprecedented in Cunard's shipbuilding history. Clearly the design and construction team in St. Nazaire did a fine job and it is evident in the superb fittings, lighting, attention to signage details, the "secret" passageways under the Britannia to access the Queens Room and G32 Club, and so on. She rides beautifully even though I did not get to experience her at full throttle (we were on a 3 night Nowhere Cruise from New York.) The outdoor deck space is wonderful...loads of it. Ample deck chairs and pools everywhere it seems. Finally a Cunarder with a real observation lounge, the Commodore Lounge, and what a nice one to boot.
The B category cabins are just fine...not huge (especially the bathroom) but very adequate. I was not put out by the hull "carve out" for my balcony, but perhaps in a warm climate cruise, I might want to upgrade to the glass railed balcony cabin. The grill suites are lovely...worth the price increase? Maybe/maybe not. I was really uninspired by the location and decor of both Princess and Queens Grills. They look out onto a narrow covered section of the Promenade Deck. Once leaving the Princess Grill, presumably after a 5-star dining event, you walk straight into the King's Court (see below) and, trust me, not a pretty transition. The menus are identical in the grill rooms and Britannia, hence the need for you to order off the menu in the grills, which according to one maitre d', they do not wholly encourage in Princess Grill. I am certain they will comply to some degree, however, and you will not get tableside service in Britannia at all. Britannia is a glorified "hall-o-food", a pretty one though. Choose your table very carefully...there are four or five "Siberias" in that restaurant. Tables for two on the second level by the rails are quite acceptable. The long, large tables elsewhere in the room are pretty dreadful and remind one of Cabin Class on a lesser Cunarder in the old days. The food in Britannia is quite fine, portions clearly adjusted to the robust American demand (I spotted about four or five women onboard who must have tipped the scales at 350+, God love 'em).
The King's Court cafeteria (not really...but almost) is too big and, when not divided for its evening-four services, looks like a food court at an upscale mall. No outdoor space really makes it gangly. The evening transforms it into four separate restaurants. If you secure a table by the windows looking over the Promenade Deck, it seems tolerable. That the King's Court and Princess Grill are opposite one another is a very neglectful design flaw. The exclusivity of the "Cunard Dining Plan" is totally lost for the Grill Passenger.
Now, as to Todd English, I have not had food of that caliber at sea in a very long time (I've sailed on SS France, Kungsholm, Bremen, Leonardo da Vinci, the old Queens Mary and Elizabeth....when food at sea was prepared a la carte and presented with real style). Seabourn can rival it on occasion today, Silversea maybe (if they calm down on the Austrian berries and sweet/sours a bit). It is a lovely room, hardly a bad table (save for a few which are forced to endure the unrelenting neon of the galley doors opening. In fine weather, dine outside for lunch on their terrace cafe. The menu is set for the cruise but go as much as you can. The turbot, the truffle buttered beggars purses, the corn and lobster soup, a delectable tuna tartar....need I go on? Dine there often as you can and book right after your foot leaves the gangway onto the ship.
The Chart Room and Veuve Clicquot bars are "old liner" style and delightful. Pop a cork of vintage Veuve, order a $20 serving of sevruga and pretend you are aboard the first Queen Mary, mid-ocean, and Marlene Dietrich is just turning the corner to join you. This is the stage set for just such a scene.
You have a proud and attentive staff on QM2, some trained better than others. They are eager and they have a product which many passengers do not quite know how to appreciate. QM2 is not a run of the mill cruiseship. Her double thick hull is meant to beat back the North Atlantic at thirty knots. She is a sea greyhound , unlike anything on the seas. And as soon as passengers get what an opportunity it is to sail that way, she will be the favorite of many around the world, just like her older sister.
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